9 Jul 2019

Tackle the Tough Stuff: Josh Griffin

Hull FC’s Josh Griffin lost his dad unexpectedly in May 2015 following complications in open heart surgery, leaving him in what he described as a very dark place.

There are an infinite number of causes for mental health issues, including loss, which are only worsened by bottling them up to fester inside. 

Super League is committed to breaking down the stigmas surrounding mental health and spread the word that 'it ain’t weak to speak'.

“He would have been 62 today, we still miss him, a lot. But, time makes the heart grow stronger, and that’s something we live by as a family."

“I’m right behind this campaign, more and more men are struggling. I think the more people that talk about it, the better we’ll be.

“Losing my dad was obviously tough, and not that it didn’t affect me, but it took a while to settle in. Fortunately, I had rugby league as an escape, a way to get rid of my anger.”

Four days after his death, Josh and his two brothers went on to play at Magic Weekend, all representing Salford Red Devils at the time.

“We did it for our dad. At the time we said we wanted to play, because for me and my brothers it was our very first game together. 

"It was only four days after, we had to leave our family to go up to Newcastle so that was tough. But like I said, it was made easier because my brothers were there with me."

Upon reflection Griffin admits that whilst using Rugby League helped him cope and release his emotions, it shouldn’t be confused with escapism, a quick but very temporary fix.

“In hindsight I probably wasn’t ready to play, I remember getting yellow carded in the game for getting in a bit of a scrap, my older brother got red carded for a high tackle, my little brother got put on report, so obviously our emotions were really high.

“My dad worked away so I was used to not seeing him, but over the coming weeks and months, when he wasn’t there to pick up a phone call or not being able to see him for a sustained period, it became really tough.

“I became really angry, I started snapping at little things that I wouldn’t usually get angry about, it used to affect my sleep. 

"My behaviour changed, and it wasn’t that I was going out on benders, but I couldn’t control my emotions.”

After recognising that he wasn’t coping, Griffin did the bravest thing a man can do, he opened up about his feelings.

“I spoke to Gaz Carvell, our Player Welfare Manager at the time, and he put me in touch with someone who could help. Speaking definitely helped, I needed to get things off my chest.

“Men are meant to be these big tough creatures but bottling it up is the worst thing you can do. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders when I spoke about it.

“I used rugby as a way of coping, a lot of fans used to tweet me which was nice, but it’s not until you start speaking about it that you can really accept it."

Super League is trying to shine a spotlight on mental health and wellbeing with #TackleTheToughStuff, to find out more, click here.