SLADE Griffin is tipped to join a select group by becoming only the fourth player to link with the Newcastle Knights straight after winning a grand final.
Griffin, an unsung utility forward, played off the bench in Melbourne’s emphatic 34-6 win against North Queensland in Sunday’s NRL title decide at ANZ Stadium.
It appears likely that will be the 26-year-old’s swansong appearance for the Storm, amid widespread speculation he has agreed to a two-year deal contract the Knights.
While Newcastle officials are yet to officially announce that a deal with Griffin has been done, his Wikipedia profile already lists him as a Knights player.
That is expected to be confirmed in coming days, at which point Griffin would become a member of an exclusive club.
Only three players in Newcastle’s 30-year history have arrived at the Knights as current premiership players – Michael Hagan, Ben Cross and Neville Costigan.
Hagan farewelled Canterbury after their 1988 grand final win against Balmain, Cross helped Melbourne beat Manly in 2008 and Costigan signed off at St George Illawarra after their 2010 triumph against the Roosters.
They have signed a number of other former premiership winners over the years – most recently Rory Kostjasyn (Cowboys, 2015), Jamie Buhrer (Manly, 2011), Darius Boyd (Dragons, 2010) and Willie Mason (Canterbury, 2012) – but none of them immediately after collecting their premiership rings.
The Knights see Griffin as a like-for-like replacement for the luckless Kostjasyn, forced to retire before he had played a game for Newcastle after suffering a pre-season throat injury.
“Slade’s obviously a player we’re interested in,” Knights chief executive Matt Gidley told the Newcastle Herald last month.
“We see him as nearly a direct replacement for Rory Kostjasyn. We need to work it through.
"They're very similar types of players. They can play nine or 13. They're similar types of characters as well.”
In the absence of Kostjasyn, and after the departure of Tyler Randell to England, Newcastle coach Nathan Brown used the versatile Buhrer to share the dummy-half duties with Danny Levi this season.
Griffin played in 13 games for Melbourne this season, including four as a stopgap hooker while skipper Cameron Smith was unavailable.
He played in all three of Melbourne’s play-off victories, including a 12-minute cameo in the grand final in which he made eight tackles and carried the ball 37 metres.
He has played only 26 first-grade game in a career that kicked off in 2013 and has been interrupted by three knee reconstructions.
Meanwhile, South Sydney-bound Knights flyer Dane Gagai will learn on Tuesday if he has been named in the Kangaroos squad for the World Cup.