Griffin's gruelling road to premiership glory
He might be heading to Newcastle next season but the Storm will always hold a special place in Slade Griffin's heart.
Such is his respect for the 2017 premiers that he didn't want to talk about his much-publicised move following Melbourne's 34-6 grand final win over the Cowboys because the deal hadn't been finalised.
The headline acts on Sunday night were Cooper Cronk leaving the Victorian capital on a high while fullback Billy Slater capped a remarkable comeback from injury by taking out the Clive Churchill Medal in his 299th appearance for the club, and while he mightn't have received as much fanfare, Griffin's story is equally amazing.
Touted as one of the next big things after he claimed the 2011 Darren Bell Medal as the club's best player in the NYC, Griffin's path to first grade came to a shuddering halt when he tore his ACL in the first pre-season game of 2012.
Sitting in the showers naked and alone, the talented utility thought his career was over.
As a die-hard footy fan, he knew what the injury meant: 12 lonely months of rehab with no guarantees that the club would offer him a new contract.
His fears lasted all of 10 minutes, however, as Storm Football Director Frank Ponissi found him in the showers and assured him the club would support him every step of the way.
Griffin endured two more knee reconstructions and went 1056 days between NRL appearances, but despite the setbacks, he can now call himself a premiership winner; something he doesn't think would have been possible had it not been for the Storm's show of faith.
"The first time I did my knee, I thought my career was over," he told NRL.com minutes after Melbourne had claimed the 2017 premiership.
"I got under-20s player of the year the year before and I had a really good pre-season and had earned a starting spot, but then I did my ACL in the first trial game.
"I was in the showers thinking 'wow, ACL. That's career ending'. However, they (Ponissi and Storm coach Craig Bellamy) came in straightaway and told me not to worry about it because they'd re-sign me, so instantly that took a weight off my mind.
"For them to show faith in me tells you all you need to know about who they are and what this club stands for.
"I had a hard road a few years ago, but everyone has had a hard road at some point of their career.
"I'm just grateful for the support that I had from my family, my partner, Grace, and the Melbourne Storm. They are a great club. They haven't just looked after me; they've done it for guys like (former Storm winger) Matt Duffie so I'm so happy to repay them a bit tonight."
Sunday's result capped an incredible journey for the self-confessed footy nerd, with the 26-year-old revealing it was his first grand final win since the under-15s.
Griffin has come a long way from the small New Zealand town of Greymouth to playing under the bright lights of ANZ Stadium, and for a guy who watches every game without fail, having a premiership ring of his own is something he will cherish forever.
"I come from a small town with no traffic lights, so tonight I was pretty much playing in front of ten times the number of people that were in my town. It's pretty surreal," he said.
"I was just talking to my uncle – he was my coach when I was growing up through the grades and he picked me up and dropped me off at local footy – so to have him here tonight on grand final night was amazing.
"I'm just a fan boy at heart so I love watching grand finals, so to have a ring and to get my name in the locker back at the Melbourne Storm is special."