Ryan Griffiths Exclusive: Sarawak move a bit of déjà vu
Toward the end of last year, Sarawak fans were abuzz when an Australian named Ryan Griffiths openly spoke about moving to Malaysia.
However, the excitement was short-lived, as the Malaysian Super League’s rule on AFC player’s limits signings to top-tier clubs meant Griffiths’ season-long stint at China League One side Beijing Baxy halted the move.
Griffiths subsequently moved to A-League side Adelaide United, where he appeared four times before finally earning the move to Sarawak last week thanks to Adelaide’s status as an AFC top-tier side.
Capped five times by Australia and with a Chinese Super League winner’s medal to his name, 32-year-old Griffiths explains just how this all panned out and the important factors allowing him to get his desired move to Malaysia.
“I’m very happy to finally join Sarawak, it feels a bit of déjà vu!” the former Newcastle Jets, Beijing Guoan and Beijing Baxy striker tells FFT.
“They were promoted last year and seem like they have a good coach - the players must be good too [due to their current position in the league]. So, I was really eager to move to Malaysia and explore new possibilities.
“I did my research, looked at the club and got some info from [Astro SuperSport pundit] Scott Ollerenshaw, who was very helpful to me with the move.”
Another big factor behind the move was his elder brother, Adam Griffiths, who is playing his second season in Malaysia with Kedah following a stint at Selangor.
“Adam played a huge role. I called him a lot and we talked about Malaysia and the Super League. He obviously told me that it was a great place to live in and that I’d enjoy it!” he exclaims.
Although Griffiths has sealed his move to Sarawak, the jury is still out on the infamous MSL rule that blocked his path initially – it only allows players from the top two divisions of UEFA, CAF, and CONCACAF, and players from the top leagues in the AFC and OFC to join the MSL.
“I think the rule is silly,” he says. “If you look at my CV, I have played at some of the big clubs and scored a lot of goals at those clubs.”
“I think they [the Football Association of Malaysia] need to reassess the rule and have a look at which competitions players aren’t allowed to come from and not simply at which tier of football a player is in.
“Playing for Adelaide United obviously helped a lot in my move to Malaysia. I was lucky I had the chance and had some items written into my contract to make the move possible because I really wanted to play in Malaysia. I was surprised that it happened so soon, though.”
Despite using Adelaide United as a stepping stone, Griffiths is not worried about the fan backlash. “I loved playing for the club and the atmosphere was really good. Hopefully more clubs can look at what they are doing there and try to emulate them. But I really wanted the move,” he says.
“The coach at Adelaide, Josep Gombau, did not want me to go. He was really happy with how I was playing, but he knew that I always wanted to go. He was very understanding, and I really admire him for that.
“I think a lot of the fans [in Australia] will still follow my progress in Malaysia because I have been getting a lot of best wishes messages on my Twitter account, which I am really thankful for.”
Besides his fans in Australia, Griffiths believes his existing fan base in China will be supporting him in his new adventure as well. On the Twitter-like Chinese site, Sina Weibo, Ryan Griffiths has nearly 700,000 followers, which far exceeds his Twitter followers of 4,000.
“When I was playing in Beijing, the supporters were great and really genuine. Even after I returned to Australia, I saw a lot of Chinese fans who came over just to watch me play. That was really pleasing.”
With him and his brother Adam playing in the Super League, Ryan does not rule out the possibility of having another Griffiths in the league in the near future.
“I have spoken to my other brother, Joel, about playing in Malaysia,” Griffiths reveals.
“He has been in touch with Ollerenshaw, so we will see what happens. If he can make it, it will only be good for the league.”