Knights depth crucial after Watson injury: Griffin
Newcastle Knights hooker Slade Griffin says while the loss of five-eighth Connor Watson is a blow, the team's impressive new-found depth means they will be well-serviced in his absence.
Griffin was a surprise selection at hooker ahead of Kiwi Test rake Danny Levi in round one, but three impressive performances have shored up his spot in the red and blue No.9 jersey.
Speaking after his team's disappointing 38-8 loss to the Roosters on Sunday night, Griffin said while the match and loss of Watson were setbacks, the team was well-equipped to hit back quickly.
"We've got nine players in the starting side that are all new [to the club this year] so it was always going to take a while to get our combinations," Griffin said.
"There's probably times out there [on Sunday] we got a little bit lost in the heat of the battle, it's something we've got to keep working on at training and really just build off the fundamentals and try and get stuck into the game a little bit more."
Knights coach Nathan Brown said the most disappointing aspect of the loss was seeing his players getting beaten in "effort areas".
While he didn't name names, he almost certainly was not referring to 2017 Melbourne Storm premiership-winner Griffin, who was everywhere again as he attempted to chase down half-breaks and clean up loose balls in his first 80-minute performance on 2017.
"Obviously I'm happy to be the starting hooker. I was really happy after the first two wins, not so much [after the Roosters game]," Griffin said.
"They're a quality outfit and their fans really got behind them. I guess it's a lesson for us how to play football in the wet. We've got a big test next week against the Dragons who are going really well as well."
Griffin described the loss of Watson as "a massive blow" but praised young half Brock Lamb, who is set to be installed as the new five-eighth in what could be a three-month absence if Watson undergoes shoulder surgery.
"Connor really trained hard over the pre-season, he's a big part of what we're doing. In saying that we've got Lamby and that's the good thing about having depth at the club, you always need someone to come in through the season, you never have the same 17 play every week," Griffin said.
"I think that's something we do have this year, a bit of depth in positions which not only keeps you on your toes but makes everyone train harder during the week cos if you don't train well you might lose your spot so you've got to train well, play well. Hopefully Lamby comes in and plays well which I'm sure he will.
"He's been in the side, he's had that exposure. I've actually been really impressed with Brock, what he's done through the pre-season has been very good and direct. He takes the ball to the line and got a great kicking game so we'll see how he goes."
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The club's various assortment of playmakers – which includes Levi and half Jack Cogger, who are each a chance of taking over Lamb's bench role against the Dragons this week – had plenty of time to share roles through the pre-season, according to Griffin.
"Browny did switch the team up a bit [in pre-season], we did a lot of scrimmage against each other so from Christmas we were kind of playing games, first team against second team and swap players in and out to build those combinations and Lamby got his fair share of reps there," he said.
"He's been coming in the last 30 minutes [this year] and he's done a really good job at the back end of games so I'm really confident he'll do the job."