Ryan Griffen talks about his switch from Western Bulldogs to Greater Western Sydney
By Jake Niall
Updated12 February 2015 — 8:38pmfirst published at 7:51pm
Ryan Griffen was unhappy in his final year with the Western Bulldogs. He had lost the enjoyment of “all parts” of playing football. The captaincy he had reluctantly accepted for 2014 was an unwelcome burden, and when he went home, he couldn’t stop thinking about “certain stuff”. Unhappiness at work was seeping into the rest of his life.
“I didn’t stop thinking about certain stuff, especially last year, and that was affecting, like relationships because I wasn’t there - I was thinking about other stuff.”
Griffen’s mother was concerned. “She came up through the year and said I’ve changed, my personality’s changed, you’re not happy, what’s wrong, you’re not your normal self. Because your mother knows.”
Ultimately, Griffen’s mother, and especially eldest brother Travis, would be influential in encouraging him to leave the Dogs - setting off a sequence of drastic events that included the trading of Griffen and Tom Boyd.
Griffen’s request for a trade also was immediately followed by the sacking of Brendan McCartney as coach - an event that Griffen views as completely separate from his decision. “It’s not a good feeling and you know I wasn’t sitting there with a smile on my face,” Griffen said of McCartney’s axing in October.
“I was distraught and that was a horrible time in my life, that whole process. But I still feel they were separate issues. I don’t feel that it was just me leaving, that’s the reason why Macca had to go.”
He would not have reversed his decision had he known McCartney was to go, he said. “I wasn’t going to change my mind, whether Macca was there or not. I just got to a point in my career where I felt I needed to have a change.”
Several weeks before his request for a trade detonated, Griffen was contacted by Leon Cameron, the coach of the Giants, who had coached Griffen in Cameron’s years as an assistant under Rodney Eade. Cameron listened to Griffen’s woes, but neither coach nor player then thought Griffen would end his Dog days and make the Giant leap north.
“Leon contacted me probably six weeks out, just to see how I was, how I was travelling. That’s all that discussion was,” said Griffen. To the question of whether a move to Greater Western Sydney was considered, he added: “No he didn’t think it was possible. I told him it wasn’t possible then. I was like 'no, I’m going to stick it out.”’
But Griffen did not stay the course, even as the Dogs tried to talk him into remaining. Happiness came first. On a return from a post-season trip to Italy with his girlfriend Jasmine - and following conversations with family - he made what he refers to, throughout our interview, as “the decision.”
Griffen doesn’t blame the captaincy entirely for The Decision, but suggested that his captain’s attempts to make everyone happy - team mates clearly included - didn’t help his own wellbeing.
“There was me trying to make everyone happy, and that’s probably what brought me down. I was trying to make everyone sort of happy, happy medium.”
Had he not left, Griffen believes would have retired later this year. "I needed to be refreshed. I was at a point where I wasn’t enjoying footy and I wasn’t enjoying going to training, I wasn’t enjoying life outside, which was affecting things outside the club as well. I needed a change. I felt that getting out of Melbourne and getting up here - I have a great relationship with Leon … to completely have a fresh start, I thought that would give me a spark to sort of finish my career in the right way. Otherwise, I was willing to walk away from the game.
“I think I probably would have played another year - obviously I had another year in my contract - seen that out and if I wasn’t enjoying it, there was no point going on.”