Griffin welcomes new Knights challenge
Newcastle recruit Slade Griffin admits it was time to step out of Cameron Smith's formidable shadow and test himself after joining the Knights for training for the first time on Tuesday.
Griffin played 26 games for Melbourne Storm across four seasons. Three knee reconstructions and the quality of players in the Storm forward pack were the reasons why the 26-year-old never made a first grade spot his own.
The Cobden-Kohinoor Keas (New Zealand) junior moved to Melbourne in 2009 as a 17-year-old and played in the under-20s competition alongside the likes of Gareth Widdop, Tohu Harris and Jordan McLean before progressing into Craig Bellamy's top squad.
Knights coach Nathan Brown rotated Danny Levi and Jamie Buhrer in the hooker position during 2017 after former Cowboys No.9 Rory Kostjaysn was forced into early retirement.
Griffin is now expected to share time with Levi in the hooker’s role, with Buhrer shifting into the back row.
"I'm getting to that age now, I want to test myself and see what I can do with my career," Griffin said on Tuesday.
"That's what Browny talked about when I came here and that intrigued me. I feel like I've done my apprenticeship under Cameron [Smith] down in Melbourne.
"I think Danny and I are different players, we could play different roles in the team but in the same position.
"I'm more like Jamie [Buhrer] – a defensive hooker, and [Danny] is probably more leg speed so we could have a good one-two punch together."
Griffin labelled Smith a "once in a generation player", and with no retirement plans in sight felt he couldn't continue to play second fiddle to the Australian skipper.
"It was always going to be limited down there coming off the bench," Griffin said.
"I'm a completely different player to him. I learnt a lot off him and how he carries himself off the field.
"Browny has been there [as a coaching consultant in Melbourne] and seen what has worked down there. I think it starts from the top, they've got a great leadership group and good coach.
"If we all buy into a system here together, anything is possible, you only have to look at the Cowboys."
Griffin's journey to Newcastle comes with uncharted waters – he knows little about the town and no-one in the squad.
But after growing up in Greymouth, a small coastal town in New Zealand, Griffin said the move suited his laidback lifestyle.
"Usually you know someone who you've played with junior reps but I don't know one," Griffin said.
"I come over [from New Zealand to Melbourne] when I was 17 – it was all I knew.
"It feels like my first day of school. [Brown] has been great and everyone has welcomed me with open arms.
"They've got some great young talent and a couple of old heads now. They've recruited well.
"It's going to take a while to gel but hopefully we can all work hard over pre-season and buy into the system."
Being a part of the Storm's premiership-winning side isn't going to guarantee Griffin a spot in Newcastle's top 17 – a challenge he welcomes as the Knights continue to add depth to their squad.
"You might have a little bit more stature but not really, I've still got to come here and train hard with my head down," Griffin said.
"The opportunity to play more minutes, I know it's not going to be given to me. I will have to earn it."