Anthony Griffin admits he feared at times he’d never coach in the NRL again, but he never doubted his ability in his two seasons out of the game.
Griffin will make his return to the coach’s box in St George Illawarra’s opener against Cronulla on Sunday, 951 days since he was controversially sacked by Penrith.
The 54-year-old has been handed arguably the league’s hardest job, with the Dragons already equal-favourites for the wooden spoon.
But he doesn’t see it that way, certain it’s the right fit after making the finals in his last year at both Brisbane and the Panthers.
“At times you do (wonder if you’ll get another chance),” Griffin told AAP.
“What happened at Penrith was funny circumstances.
“I played my part in that. I don’t blame anyone or have any animosity towards the club. I’ve moved on.
“The first thing I had to do was sort out if I wanted to get back. That didn’t take too long.
“I’ve always had a belief in myself that I can help clubs and help build clubs. I think I’ve proven that over the past seven or eight years.”
Griffin says he is the same coach he’s always been, albeit perhaps a little mellower since first coaching Dragons players Ben Hunt, Corey Norman and Andrew McCullough in Brisbane’s under-20s.
But what he won’t do is label this Dragons’ job a rebuild.
He’s adamant winning must start immediately, under an entirely-new coaching staff following the exits of Paul McGregor, Dean Young and Shane Flanagan.
“We have just put in the structures and systems we want and think will help with the players,” Griffin said.
“A lot is built around the players we have and trying to strengthen their strengths, rather than saying we want you to play a certain way.
“I’m not coming in saying we need to rebuild everything or it’s going to be a five-year plan or anything like that.
“In the NRL it’s about next week. I’ve got a broader outlook but from Sunday night we need to be flat out and winning games.”
Much of that will fall on Hunt.
Griffin had no hesitation in making him captain and returning him to halfback, buoyed by resilience he’s seen from him while so often a punching bag for critics.
“With the 2015 grand final (Hunt) went within one Brisbane defensive play of leading them to their first Premiership in nine years,” Griffin said.
“It’s what Brisbane have been screaming out for. That’s just how fickle the business is.
“Then his first year at St George Illawarra he was superb. The ($1 million) price tag’s not his problem.
“That’s St George Illawarra’s problem, they paid that. He can only accept what’s offered to him.
“But he’s a really strong personality within himself, which gives you an insight into how he’s been able to continue to perform.
“He had no hesitation in wanting the (captaincy) job once we had the conversation. Even three or four years ago he might have had second thoughts.”