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Geoff has the big match temperament
Geoff Griffiths is used to big match occasions.
As a full-time professional for two seasons with Plymouth Albion, in the rugby-mad south-west of England, he played in some of the biggest matches the club game can produce.
‘Our derby matches against Exeter Chiefs and Cornish Pirates were always huge events in front of crowds regularly in excess of 6,000, always passionate and unbelievably partisan.’ ‘I was fortunate to experience winning against both rivals and you can’t believe the atmosphere. It’s not just the game itself, it takes over the whole city for the entire day and night!’ However, as well as the highs, the life of a professional sportsman can have its drawbacks, as Geoff went on to explain.
‘I completed my English Degree at Sheffield University (where Geoff played for Rotherham Titans after starting out his nomadic career with Bedford Blues) in 2008, just as the economy was nose-diving and jobs were hard to find, so the opportunity to get paid to play rugby came at just the right time.
’ ‘But I knew it could never be long-term. I also picked up a couple of injuries along the way and, if I’m honest, life can get a bit dull standing on the sidelines.’ So, in 2010 Geoff decided on a move to London to develop his career in digital marketing (‘yes, I’m a bit of a geek’). Settling into a job as a Media Manager with agenda21 Digital, the 6’2” utility back, who weighs in at 15 ½ stone, initially joined Esher, but a chance meeting has now led the 26-year old to Blackheath.
‘I’d worked with Mike Friday through Sevens, and his presence as backs coach was a big pull, but it was after a friend ran into Tom Bason’s father Peter in Northampton’ (from where both Geoff and Tom originate and attended the same school, although a couple of years apart) ‘that I made my decision.’ ‘I liked the sound of the set-up at Blackheath and I’ve not been disappointed,’ he went on. ‘Yusuf (Ibrahim) talks about the ‘Club family’ and he’s right, it’s a big factor. I’ve been made to feel really welcome, we’re a close-knit squad and I’m enjoying the fact we’re playing really well.’ And Geoff who, when he’s not training (‘I retain the same fitness regime as I did as a professional’) or popping round to friends’ houses to fix their computers, spends time with his partner Anna, has certainly made an early impact with his new club. Playing on the wing, he crossed the try-line twice on debut against Loughborough Students and has followed up with five more scores, including a brace against his former club Esher, and as the match against Ealing Trailfinders approaches this Saturday, inevitable comparisons will be made with the league-leaders’ try-scoring machine Phil Chesters.
‘Phil has smashed records left, right and centre, but it’s not really something I’m thinking about,’ said Geoff.
‘It’s a case of being in the right place at the right time and I’ve just happened to get on the end of some good moves – so good, in fact, I’ve had ‘Lanks’ (Richard Lankshear – Geoff’s opposite wing) outside me and not needed him,’ he added with a smile. ‘The important thing is that it doesn’t matter if I’m playing on the wing, centre or full-back, our approach and style means everyone is involved in everything we do. We’re creating chances from anywhere.’ And Blackheath will need plenty of chances, as well as Geoff’s expert finishing skills, if they’re to succeed against their near rivals in what is undoubtedly the Club’s biggest game for some time. The two sides drew 27-27 in their first-ever meeting at Rectory Field last season, but the West Londoners hold the edge in league position, finishing runners-up last season to Blackheath’s third, and now leading the Club by just seven points at the head of the table.
But in Geoff Griffiths they have at least one player with the big match experience.
‘We know we have the character to dig deep and cope with any given situation. At Old Albanian we came back from 16-points behind with just 25 minutes remaining, and against Blaydon we nullified a very good pack to have the game won by the hour-mark.’ ‘I know what it’s like to experience winning a big derby match and I’d like to repeat it. You never know, if all goes well I might throw Lanks a pass!’ Blackheath against Ealing Trailfinders is a 3.00 pm kick-off at Rectory Field in Charlton Road on Saturday 13th October. Admission is £12 (accompanied U16s free of charge).