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Knights import Griffin plans a one-two combo with Levi

FRESH START: Slade Griffin won a premiership last season with Melbourne Storm but is excited about the new challenge awaiting him in Newcastle. Picture: Max Mason-HubersSLADE Griffin is confidentDanny Levi and himself can offer the Knights –and potentially the Kiwis –the best of both worlds.
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“Look, me and Danny are going to be a good one-two punch this year,” Griffin said.

“It’s not about who’s the better player and who starts. We both can play different ways in the team.

TRIED AND TESTED: Danny Levi made his debut for New Zealand at the World Cup. Picture: AAP

“If I start, maybe I can take a bit of the sting out of the game with my defensive style and he can come off the bench and provide a good running game.

“So I think we’re going to complement each other. We’re working well together in pre-season and I think we’re both going to make each other better.”

Griffin’s arrival at the Knights, after helping Melbourne win last season’s grand final, has created an intriguing situation that could well catch the attention of New Zealand selectors.

Levi is the incumbent Kiwi Test hooker, having worn the black-and-white four times at last year’s World Cup.

Yet in last week’s trial match against Melbourne, which the Knights won 26-22, Newcastle coach Nathan Brown preferred Griffin as his starting dummy-half, and Levi as his tag-team substitute.

If it works for Newcastle, perhaps it could work at international level.

“I’d love to play for the Kiwis,” said Griffin, who hails from Greymouth on the South Island.

“But I know there’s a lot to do before that happens. I’ve got to work really hard and play some good footyfor the Knights.”

The 94-kilogram utility forward they call “Nugget” is more experienced than his career tally of 25 NRL games would suggest.

He spent nine years with Melbourne and made his top-grade debut in 2013, only to endure the heartache of three knee reconstructions.

“I’m getting to the age where I need to test myself now,” he said.

“I loved my time down in Melbourne. I learned a lot and I got to play with some great players.

“But when the opportunity came to join Newcastle, I couldn’t have gone to a better club. It suits me on and off the field.

“The way we’re going to play our footy this year, it’s going to be eyes-up and not too structured, so I’m really excited about that.”

Last season he established himself as a regular on Melbourne’s bench, playing in 14 games culminating in the grand final, which he described as “a special moment”.

Playing against his former teammates in his first game for Newcastle was“a bit weird”, he admitted.

“I was really excited on the bus, driving to the stadium,” he said.

“Me and the boys were giving each other a few words, and a few facials, which was pretty funny.

“But now I’m wearing the blue and red, so I had a job to do and I tried to focus on that.”

SLADE GRIFFIN

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