Griffin helps push back boundaries

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Wakefield went fishing well outside the mainstream when they offered trials to a keen young prop named Darrell Griffin, but they believe that they have come up with a valuable catch.

Griffin had played for his home club, the Oxford Cavaliers, in the Rugby League Conference and for the junior teams at the London Broncos, but had drifted back to rugby union with Harlequins when he asked for another chance in his preferred code.

"He was keen to get back into league, so we gave him four games in the Academy and liked what we saw," says the Wakefield coach, Shane McNally. "He came into the first team as a late replacement against Widnes and did well against them, and against Warrington. At 22, he's young enough, he throws a really nice pass and he's quite mobile for a big bloke. I think he's got a huge future."

For all the grass-roots activity around the country, few players from outside the game's heartlands rise through the ranks to win professional contracts - and some of the examples are not encouraging.

There was London's Matt Salter, who got as far as the fringes of the Great Britain team before returning to union. The Broncos also unearthed Dominic Peters, a highly promising winger when injury-free, before a positive test for steroids brought him a 12-month suspension recently.

Two other players from the Broncos' development scheme are making progress in the north. Joe Mbu, on loan to Leeds, played for the Super League Under-21s in midweek and showed up well, whilst Desai Williams, now with Wigan, played for his adopted county of Lancashire in the Junior Academy match against Yorkshire a few days earlier.

McNally believes that players like these could be the tip of a big iceberg: "I think that the potential is out there for sure. It's just a matter of getting them into the game, which is something that the emergence of the London Skolars should allow us to do."

The stepping stones are now there for players born outside the game's traditional areas, and Griffin could be an important standard-bearer for the talent that is out there.

He signed an 18-month contract last week and will continue his development in the Wildcats side to face Huddersfield this afternoon. If McNally is right about him, his ability to match it with players brought up in the game from the cradle should encourage other clubs to look in a few of the less obvious places for their new recruits as well.

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