Four weeks ago, Norwood’s Mitch Grigg was playing in the SANFL reserves following a string of less than ideal performances at league level.
The dual Magarey Medallist stuck it out, regained a position in the league side and last weekend had 34 disposals, kicked three goals and laid nine tackles to be best on ground in his side’s win over South Adelaide.
Being told by senior coach Jade Rawlings to go play reserves football was as he put it, “embarrassing”, but eventually gave his confidence a boost heading into the middle of the season.
“I hadn’t played at reserves level for 10-11 years so on a personal note it was quite embarrassing because that’s not where I want to be as a player,” he said.
“I voiced that opinion to Twig [Jade Rawlings], we had an honest conversation about it and I definitely wasn’t happy about it.
“But I understood his point of view and I certainly wasn’t going to change his opinion by whinging and complaining so I just went about my business.”
Across his whole body of work, last weekend’s performance was no outlier either, with the bustling midfielder taking almost all before him in the SANFL previously, including a Jack Oatey Medal in a losing grand final side.
“I thought it was probably one of my best games over the last two years,” Grigg said.
“And that stems from a lot of things, not just feeling confident in my own game again but also having the trust of the coaching staff to play a role.
“I think when you’re playing with the confidence of others it goes a long way to playing well.”
And whilst he can appreciate a personal performance like that, Grigg says these days he gets the most enjoyment from watching his younger teammates step up and excel.
“I just enjoy watching the younger boys get their first game and then become consistent league players, more so than my own performance now.
“There’s a lot of younger players coming through that you try and help out where you can and I think thats the direction that the club is going – the youth is going to get us somewhere.”
With his 150th league game just four weeks away, Grigg is feeling as good as ever, having put in the hard yards over the pre-season, and playing football that he takes pride in again.
“In regards to my conditioning it’s probably the best I’ve been in the last three years,” he said.
“I am probably four to five kilograms lighter than what I was last year and obviously with our pre-season, my fitness base was a lot higher as well.”
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The 27-year-old won the competition’s top individual honour in 2017 and 2018, after being delisted by the Adelaide Crows at the end of 2015.
But by his own admission, he had taken his foot off the gas across the last couple of seasons, to a level that wasn’t meeting either his standards or those of his coaches.
“I obviously wasn’t happy with the previous couple of years, with the team but also personally,” he said.
“I’ve got a bit of pride when it comes to my own performance and I certainly wasn’t happy with the level I was performing at and I thought if I get my fitness into the right shape, that’ll go a long way to helping me play at the level I want to play.”
Not only is Grigg now performing well, but so is the team under first-year coach Rawlings, who was appointed late last year following the departure of Jarrod Cotton.
“Internally we’ve addressed a few issues in regards to holding off teams when they’ve got momentum and coming up with a few different ways to do that,” Grigg said.
“There’s been a lot of growth from the group and we are very young, half the team wouldn’t have even played 20 games, so we’re still learning week-to-week and that’s basically all we can ask of the boys.
“We’ll continue to move forward and it’s only going to be positive from here on.”
And with this season very much being the focus for Grigg, what lays ahead after is still to be decided.
“There’s a lot of things to consider for me, so I’ve got a baby on the way and it’s very much up in the air, but I’ll make that decision at the end of the year.”
But with a key milestone not far away, the landscaper by trade still has a love for the club he has dedicated so much time to across his SANFL career.
“I’ve really enjoyed playing SANFL footy, especially more so for Norwood, and to have that milestone is something that I’ll be proud of and something to look back on.”
SANFL ROUND ELEVEN
Saturday June 19
Central District vs West Adelaide, X Convenience Oval @ 1.35pm
Sunday June 20
Port Adelaide vs Sturt, Alberton Oval @ 2.10pm
Bye: Glenelg, Woodville-West Torrens, South Adelaide, Norwood, North Adelaide, Adelaide.
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