FORMER Witney junior Darrell Griffin’s career will reach another milestone on Saturday when he plays in Super League’s Grand Final at Old Trafford.
Prop Griffin helped Leeds Rhinos edge out Wigan Warriors in a dramatic semi-final and is now relishing their clash with Warrington for English rugby league’s biggest prize.
Should Leeds retain the crown, it would represent a new high for 31-year-old Griffin, who only turned to the 13-man code to keep fit.
“I am not too sure how many from Oxfordshire have played in a grand final,” said former Oxford Cavalier Griffin. “I think I am the first.
“I still speak to people at Oxford Cavaliers and keep in touch with guys there.
“Hopefully, it is good publicity for Oxford rugby league. It shows that you can come from there and make it.
Griffin, who is now Cavaliers’ honorary president, joined them as a teenager to help recover from an injury over the summer.
“I was always a rugby union player,” he said. “I come from Witney and was hoping for a career in rugby union.”
Griffin joined London Broncos at 17, but later returned to rugby union with Harlequins for two years.
The decisive moment came with a move to Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
Griffin progessed to Huddersfield Giants where he spent five years and won four England caps before joining Leeds ahead of the 2012 season.
“It has been a long old road to get there,” said Griffin.
Asked if Saturday’s match would be the biggest of his career, Griffin said: “It would certainly be up there.
“I have had the pleasure of playing in a couple of Challenge Cup finals and for England.
“What makes this one special is that the Super League Grand Final comes after 27 rounds of rugby and then the play-offs.
“It is a real test of your season.”
As in 2011, Leeds have made the final after finishing fifth in the regular season and have real momentum as they seek the title again.
“I was at Huddersfield when they did it last year,” he said. “For history to repeat itself would be awesome.”
Leeds pipped Wigan 13-12 in Friday’s semi-final, thanks to Kevin Sinfield’s late penalty.
Griffin said: “With four minutes to go, I had my head in my hands, but with three minutes to go, I was jumping up and down.
“It then felt like the longest three minutes of my life.”
Looking ahead to the final, Griffin said: “I am dead excited. I have got a lot of friends and family coming.
“I stopped getting nervous for games a while ago. I used to be bad as a kid, but as I got older I learnt to relax more.
“I have a family now and they take my mind off it.”
Griffin, however, is not expecting to add to his England caps.
Asked if still hoped to play for his country again, he said: “Not really. I am 31 now. My goal is just to play well for my club.
“There are a lot of decent front-rowers around.
“I am having a shoulder reconstruction this winter that I have been putting off for four or five years now.
“This winter I am just going to go away with my family, enjoy a couple of weeks off, and get ready for the new season.”