Pubished on 17 May 2019
Griffin to help West Gippy soar

“Just watch the footy and jump.”

Mark Griffin’s take on the key to taking the high-flying grabs he’s become renowned for is a simple one, but not surprising for a player with a unique and undeniable talent.

It comes naturally. It’s instinctive.

“I just like jumping at the footy and going for it,” he says.

Ironically, Griffin once featured on Almost Footy Legends, but only in a supporting role, as then-Kilcunda Bass forward Kael Bergles hauled in a spectacular grab over the defender during a game at Bass Recreation Reserve.

Phillip Island star Mark Griffin flies for a mark during a match against Kilcunda Bass earlier this season.

Judging by his performances since, the experience has done little to dampen his enthusiasm for the hanger and he remains one of the most exciting players in Gippsland footy.

When Griffin pulls on the red and yellow jumper of the Alex Scott & Staff West Gippsland Football Netball Competition’s senior interleague team at Yarragon tomorrow, he will be the only player to have done so in each of the three years since the competition’s inception.

It’s fitting for a player who has quickly developed into an incredibly reliable performer for club and competition.

Making his rise all the more intriguing is he is still relatively new to the sport.

Griffin, 27, only took up footy in 2013, having grown up playing the round-ball code.

A move from Warragul to Phillip Island changed all that.

“I moved down to the Island five years ago and I had some mates that I played soccer with that had made the change,” Griffin said.

“I just enjoy running around playing sport and playing with my mates.”

Griffin joined the Bulldogs in 2013 and played the first six games in the reserves before a standout game against Yarram led to his first senior call up the following week.

He hasn’t looked back, eclipsing the 100-game mark for the seniors last year.

Game 33 and game 105 were particularly memorable, as they each ended with a premiership medals hanging around his neck.

The latter didn’t come easy, despite the final score line.

“It’s probably testament to how tough he is but [Mark] had a 12-week injury six weeks out from the grand final,” Bulldogs coach Beau Vernon recalled.

“He got three opinions and had fully ruptured ligaments in his ankle then tried to put his hand up for the semi-final but we had the double chance so we didn’t risk him.

“He passed all the fitness tests and we were comfortable picking him on grand final day and he was one of the leaders of the back line on the day.”

Griffin’s athleticism and skillset make him a versatile member of any squad and while Vernon believes half-back is his best position, he has filled various roles over the years, including an occasional pinch-hit in the ruck – remarkable, given he only stands at 181cm.

“He has a massive spring on him and can definitely get up there,” Vernon said.

“He can play in other positions but we think he’s the best half-back in the league with his legs, his foot skills, his dash and his ability to intercept and win one-on-ones contests.”

Beyond the footy field, Vernon said Griffin was a respected member of the club.

“He’s a bit reserved and a pretty quiet sort of a bloke, but he’s has good values as a person,” Vernon said.

“He’s always looking to improve and likes to learn and he’s the first one on the track and one of the last off it. He’s a great role model for our younger players.”

In amongst his club football, he has played representative footy four times, with his first cap for the Alberton Football Netball League coming after less than 20 games of senior footy.

His fifth appearance in the Worksafe Community Championships comes this weekend, when West Gippsland takes on the neighbouring Ellinbank and District Football League.

Griffin is expected to line up in the forward line and was looking forward to playing his role for the side as it attempts to back up last year’s win against Maryborough Castlemaine and District Football League, with another against a more familiar opponent.

“I’m playing down forward this weekend, so it will be a bit different and putting on plenty of pressure down forward,” he said.

“It’s always a challenge to work out where to run and the ball comes in in different directions.

“I just enjoy playing my footy and representing the league. It’s really good and you make some good mates in this type of footy.”

WGFNC supporters will be hoping Griffin can add to his highlights reel in another win this weekend.

Tomorrow’s Worksafe Community Championships game takes place at Dowton Park in Yarragon, with the seniors kicking off at 2:30pm following the under-18 clash at 12:00pm.