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Griffin's legacy lives on in Broncos

Griffin's legacy lives on in Broncos

Wed, Sep 13, 2017 - 06:00AM
By Tony Webeck‌‌, ‌NRL.com

When Wayne Bennett guided the Broncos to within five seconds of a seventh premiership in 2015 his return to Red Hill was hailed as a masterstroke but the man who deserved at least partial credit was the man he had deposed 12 months earlier.

As its inaugural coach there is no question that Bennett's influence over the Broncos has been greater than any other person but for a generation of players who came through the Brisbane powerhouse the mentor for much of their careers has been Anthony Griffin.

In Bennett's credit, he did state on numerous occasions as the 2015 premiership charge unfolded how he had inherited a team in good shape and those who Griffin graduated from the under-20s to the NRL have become cornerstones of Bennett's teams over the past three years.

Now coach of a Panthers team looking to ride a wave of youthful exuberance to a preliminary final against Melbourne that would end Brisbane's season, Griffin has an impressive head-to-head record of eight wins and a draw from 11 matches against Bennett-coached teams.

The only loss Griffin suffered at the hands of Bennett during his four seasons in charge at the Broncos was a 26-18 defeat by Newcastle in Round 25, 2013 and their parallel histories make for an intriguing sub-plot ahead of Friday night's Semi-Final showdown at Suncorp Stadium.

 

‌Bennett's final season in his initial 20-year stint at the Broncos was Griffin's first in charge of an under-20s team featuring Ben Hunt, Alex Glenn, Josh McGuire and Andrew McCullough.

That side progressed all the way to the National Youth Competition grand final and after acting as an assistant for Ivan Henjak it was Griffin who was parachuted into the position as head coach just weeks before the start of the 2011 season.

Seven members of Brisbane's team to play the Panthers on Friday played under Griffin in his 101 games in charge across four seasons and for players such as Glenn whose history stretches back to 2008, his influence has not been forgotten.

"He gave me my first opportunity in under-20s and mentored me into the player I am today," Glenn told NRL.com.

"When I first came here I was playing in the centre/utility role and he always believed that I was a back-rower and gave me my first opportunity there and ever since then I've never looked backwards.

"I owe a lot to him in my career and the mentoring that he gave me."

Ben Hunt came to prominence as the 2008 NYC Player of the Year whilst playing under Griffin and although he didn't emerge as a regular NRL half until Griffin's final year at the club, he gives his former coach plenty of credit for his development.

"He was exceptional. I always enjoyed playing under him and I'm very grateful for everything he did for me," Hunt said.

"He gave me my opportunity at the club. I think he's a great coach. He always knows how to get the best out of his players and get them fired up for the big games. They'll be pumped up on Friday and ready to go."

Due to a succession of knee injuries that threatened to end his career at a very early age, Jordan Kahu played just 13 games under Griffin in 2013 and 2014 but says it was his comforting words off the field that left an impression on the now 26-year-old.

Kahu's older brother Jared played in the 2008 NYC team under Griffin and although he played just three first-grade games in 2013 he was rewarded with a further two-year contract.

"I didn't really play much footy under him, I was injured all the time, but he always reassured me that I had a place at this club," Kahu said.

"He was always asking how I was doing and all of that kind of stuff which means a lot. It doesn't sound like a lot but when you're injured it means heaps to players like that."

Matt Gillett played 85 NRL games under Griffin during his Red Hill tenure and believes that the qualities he showed in bringing through a young group of Broncos players has now been applied to a Panthers team overflowing with young talent.

"Having Hook here, he's a believer and he gives a lot of faith into you as an individual that you can get the job done," Gillett said.

"He's got a young group there and energy is a big thing. He gives that to his young players, he gives them faith that they're for a reason. They play for each other and he gets the group pretty tight.

"He's one of those coaches that you want to play for week in, week out and I think he's done that job this year.

"It's shown in their back-end of season performances. They've only lost a couple and they're true believers which is a good thing and we saw that the other night against Manly."

Both Bennett and Griffin are men who prefer to keep their lighter sides shielded from the public's prying eyes and according to Glenn are both coaches who have a lot of love for their players.

"They both have a lot of respect for their players that's for sure," Glenn said.

"There's no bullshit when it comes to them two. They're straight down the line and they don't talk no crap.

"If they see something's going wrong or a player is in need of some help on and off the field they're always there to help out.

"In those sort of terms they always care about their players and they treat them as people instead of just footballers.

"That's one thing that I love about them both."

 

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