Greater Western Sydney’s clash with the Western Bulldogs was always going to be hot, but for born-again former Bulldog Ryan Griffen it’ll have added spice.
Griffen expects a less-than-friendly reception from fans at Etihad Stadium on Saturday when he meets the club he represented for 10 seasons before walking out at the end of last year.
“I probably will get booed when I run out, but I reckon that will get me fired up and looking forward to it,” Griffen said.
“That’s because they’re so passionate about their team and the Bulldogs.
“So I’m sure they’ll be into me, but that’s exciting for me and I’m looking forward to it.”
For Griffen, there are a lot more silver linings now.
When the 28-year-old answered GWS coach Leon Cameron’s call north of the boarder, he climbed out of an abyss that very nearly ended his AFL career prematurely.
“I was in a deep hole, wasn’t enjoying the game and didn’t really enjoy training,” Griffen said.
“It’s been a great decision by me and it’s freshened me right up.”
While the ex-Bulldogs captain has struggled for consistency at his new home, he’s looked increasingly comfortable in the midfield in recent weeks and had a meaningful influence on younger teammates.
Cameron himself has noticed a renewed zest and passion for the game in his new charge.
“You can see there’s life in his step, there’s genuine excitement about playing footy again,” he said.
“I think that was half the battle, just getting that excitement back about playing AFL footy.
“The game would have lost a good player if he’d have finished up.”
Cameron said he spoke with Griffen about what it might be like lining up against his former club, and drew on his own experience of moving to Richmond after a decade at the Bulldogs’ forerunner club, Footscray.
“There’s no doubt there’s going to be some nerves,” he said.
“But I’m sure once those nerves settle in the early part of the game, away he goes.”
Bulldogs forward Tom Boyd will also bring extra motivation into the clash, with the 19-year-old facing the Giants after going the other way as a result of Griffen’s transfer.
Throw in ex-Bulldog Callan Ward, and Saturday’s grudge match between the competition’s rising powers is bound to be a belter.
While the Giants are fourth on the ladder following their first ever three-match winning streak, the Bulldogs have lost three on the trot and wallow in 11th spot.
But past encounters between the sides have been close, and Cameron has touted a finals-like atmosphere.
“We feel as though the two young sides are starting to make some inroads … and it’s going to be a cracking game.”