Griffin never contemplated retirement
Melbourne's Slade Griffin said he never contemplated retirement despite a string of knee reconstructions following his first NRL game in three years in the Storm's 10-point loss to the Dragons.
In an amazing tale of perseverance, Griffin could've easily thrown in the towel after suffering his third ACL injury in four years earlier last season but fought on to make his miraculous return on Saturday night.
Griffin last featured for the Storm in Round 20, 2013 – a whopping 1056 days ago. The Cobden-Kohinoor Keas junior put that into context by noting he lined up alongside now-Storm assistant coach Jason Ryles in that particular fixture.
Despite all his woes however don't think for a second that retirement crossed the 25-year-old's mind.
"I'm a massive footy head. I love my footy. I watch every NRL game on the weekends and you can't deny that we all have pretty good jobs so I never thought about retiring," Griffin told NRL.com.
"There were some dark days there because you don't really feel like a part of the team. You're in the gym by yourself and I guess you have the 'what ifs?' running through you head like 'why me?' but I got through that.
"(Former Storm winger) Matt Duffie was going through a similar thing at the time so we got through it together. We were ACL brothers," he added with a laugh.
"It was massive for me to pull on that purple jersey again. I've been watching them for two years on the sidelines now. I love this team and I love our brand of footy so it was good to get back out there with them."
Storm coach Craig Bellamy offered Griffin a glowing appraisal following his 33-tackle effort at hooker against the Dragons.
"The one thing about Slade – it's quite emotional – he went through a couple of tough periods but the kid just has a great work ethic and that's why he's kept coming back," Bellamy said.
"He was really solid and has been playing really well for our feeder team. It was a big occasion for him and we're really proud of him because he does work so hard.
"He would've had some dark days there but he's just one of those tough kids. Hopefully he can kick on from here and have a bit more luck moving forward."
Even Dragons skipper Gareth Widdop was proud to see his former Storm teammate make his long-awaited return.
"I spoke to him after the game and said it was great to see him back. I played with him through the under-20s down in Melbourne and we came through the system together so to see him return after an awful run of injuries it's great to see," Widdop said.
"He's a great talent, a great player and it's great to see him back. Hopefully he can get a few more games under his belt this year."
Such is Griffin's love for rugby league, he even admitted he was an avid NRL Fantasy coach. Ultimately though, he couldn't have been happier with his return to the top grade.
"My mates and I are really competitive with Fantasy. We even have division one and division two leagues!" Griffin laughed.
"But I love my footy. I come from a small country town where everyone loves their footy. To be here playing with blokes Jesse Bromwich again is amazing.
"They're such great players and coming from New Zealand it's awesome to even play a game with those kind of blokes."