Joel Griffiths wanted to quit football but his angry wife pushed him to start anew after his Newcastle stint went sour, and now he’s walking on sunshine with Hyundai A-League leaders Wellington.
Griffiths, 35, signed with Ernie Merrick’s outfit till the end of this season after parting ways with embattled club Newcastle Jets last month.
It’s been a smart signing for the league’s entertainers with the clever forward slipping seamlessly into Phoenix’s attacking structure alongside the exciting Roy Krishna, Nathan Burns and Co.
The yellow and black have moved into top spot on the Hyundai A-League ladder after last weekend’s sensational 2-1 win in Perth and are now looming as a genuine title contender.
From the doldrums at his beloved Newcastle to table topping highs in Wellington, Griffiths says his transformation is par for the course in the life of a pro footballer.
“My wife as pretty angry with me, because I wanted to quit a couple of months ago,” Griffiths revealed to www.a-league.com.au on Tuesday from Wellington.
“She got really stuck into me because she thought I was taking the easy way out. Which looking back was probably right but I’d just had enough.
“I pretty much did it [move to a new club] for them. I didn’t want to go out that way.
“She said you pretty much owe us that, because she’s been travelling with me for about 15 years now around the world. So to end like that…
“And she was spot on. It’s funny how this old game works.”
Griffiths says the whole saga at Newcastle was a learning experience after he admitting falling out of love with the game.
“What have I learnt? I’ve learnt a lot,” he conceded.
“I’ve learnt that football is one of those roller-coasters. It’s so weird to be in the situation I am compared to a month ago, almost quitting… you can be here one week and gone the next.
“It’s hard to explain because I was in such a shitty place where I was.
“And I’d really given up on everything. I stopped watching football and nothing interested me.
“I lost it [the love of football]. And even when I was playing with Newcastle at that time I was totally losing it because nothing seemed to be going right at the time.
“You start questioning yourself … and that’s the worst thing you could ever do. Question yourself about ‘is it time to go or retire or am I good enough for this league?’
“But I’ve a good network around me of family and friends and if it wasn’t for them, I probably would have retired.
“But here I am. I reached out [to Wellington Phoenix] and they came back.
“The way Ernie wants us to play, it’s just refreshing from where I’ve come from,” he added.
“It’s one of the reasons why I chose to come over the ditch to play here because I was taken back at how good they play and how entertaining they’ve been this year.
“And that’s what puts a smile on your face at the end of the day.
“At 35 I’m pretty happy I got the chance… they’ve [Phoenix] definitely raised eyebrows this year – in this last month in particular.
“So we sit on top of the table, but we can’t get carried away. There’s still a lot of work to do. We have to address that every single training session.”
Travel is one thing for Phoenix footballers to work around. Though for Griffiths, it’s less about sitting on planes and in airport lounges.
“The travel’s not the big problem for me. My body was on Wellington time so it felt like 11pm kick off [in Perth].
“So it was like 1am [when the game finished]. And anyone who knows me will tell you by 1am I’m well and truly in a deep sleep by then!”
Now at his 11th senior club, Griffiths says he loves life and football again under a manager who he says understands footballers.
“Ernie’s really accommodating with the older players… he knows what we go through which shows a good manager.
“And we have sponsors here in Wellington who look after the players, which I find pretty cool.
“And the city, it’s surprising. For some reason I thought Wellington was really windy and cold and wet and ugly.
“But being here, they’ve some great restaurants and bars. It’s surprised me a lot.”
Though his long-held passion for surfing – one which Newcastle is famous for – has been curtailed in the New Zealand capital.
“Apparently you need a really thick wet suit so I don’t know if I’m ready for that.”
This weekend Griffiths will be back on a plane as Phoenix head to Brisbane in a clash that has implications for the top two as well as sixth spot for Roar.
It could be another pivotal result in the rise of the Phoenix. Though Griffiths isn’t looking too far ahead.
“I’m just one week at a time at 35. I never try plan too much ahead,” he said when asked about his future beyond this season at the Cake Tin.
“But I really want to make an impact heading into the finals.
“Watch this space I suppose…”
Wellington Phoenix play away to Brisbane Roar in this weekend’s #EraseRacism Round. Kick-off Sunday 4pm (local) at Suncorp Stadium – click here to purchase tickets.