Newcastle Knights recruit Slade Griffin has only been at the club for a few months, but he has already received a passionate lesson about the historical and cultural significance of the red and blue jersey.
Griffin was part of the team’s pre-season camp in Port Stephens this week, which featured heartfelt speeches from the club’s Old Boys who are just as keen to see their side return to the top of the ladder.
”Obviously the bonding was good, but we had the Old Boys up,” Griffin said.
”They spoke to us about the culture of the club and the old players along with the town and how much everyone is behind this team.
”The Old Boys are obviously filled with so much passion and how much they love this club and how much the town is behind this club as well.
”We’ve felt that from the fans but to see that from the Old Boys in person is very special.”
Griffin joins the club from the Melbourne Storm, which won the Telstra Premiership last season.
He can play several positions, particularly lock and hooker, and brings a wealth of knowledge after playing with the likes of Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk – three of the game’s best.
As well as the obvious goal of the club making the finals, Griffin just wants consistency in his own game and to play the entire season in first grade.
”It has been great having Browny here as he’s an ex hooker and he’s really helped me out,” the 27 year old said.
”At the moment we are all trying to mesh and bring out what worked best for us at our different clubs and what we can use here, and what they’ve already built here with a number of younger players.
”The main thing is Browny is more offensive while Craig (Bellamy) is more defensive.”
The Knights are preparing to take on Manly in the opening round, after receiving a reality check in the pre-season against Parramatta.
It was a game where too many errors gave the Eels too many chances, and Newcastle paid the price on the scoreboard.
Holding onto the ball and becoming more disciplined while keeping the free-flowing attack is something that has been a major focus at training.
”Rebuilding does take time and we probably got a bit ahead of ourselves and got a free lesson from Parramatta last week,” Griffin said.
”Maybe we needed that just to get ourselves out of first gear and have a few harsh words to each other and then hopefully we’ve set ourselves up for round one.
”It’s all about discipline and respecting the footy really because last week we made an extra 100 tackles because we just dropped the ball so many times.
”It’s the fundamentals of rugby league if you don’t hold the ball and you give away far too many penalties – well that’s always going to make it hard on ourselves.”