NPL: Ryan Griffiths finding his range for Lambton Jaffas ahead of top-of-the-table clash with Charlestown

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Joel and Ryan Griffiths, left, celebrate a goal with teammates this season.Ryan Griffiths was unsure if he’d play on in 2018 with the Lambton Jaffas after an unhappy finish to his professional career at Western Sydney Wanderers.
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Refreshed and relaxed after Lambton’s grand final win and a break from football, the former Socceroo has returned readyto lead the way for the NPL club.

And the early signs are a worry for the Jaffas’ rivals, which on Sunday are leaders Charlestown at Lisle Carr Oval in round four.

Griffiths joined the Jaffas mid-season last year after ashort stint withWanderers and went on to score six goals in 12 games as the club finished third before winning the grand final 2-0 over Edgeworth.

This year, the impressive form of Ryan and Joel Griffithshasbeen a highlight of the early rounds, where the Jaffas have two wins and a draw.They eachscored a double last week in the 4-1 victoryover Weston.

“I’m really enjoying it, coming from the A-League last season where I didn’t really enjoy my last stint at Western Sydney,” Ryan said.“It’s really refreshing to be at the Jaffas where there’s such a good community with a good feel to it.It’s just really relaxed and I’m enjoying my football.

“In the off-season Ijust did a lot of things with my family that you don’t really get to do as a footballer, you always have to preserve your energy, so it was really nice to get a bit of a break. When you come back, you’re just really eager to get out there and bang in some goals and play some good stuff, which we’re doing so far.”

He said there was no extra motivation for himself or Joel, but they were keen to push for the premiership and a better run in the FFA Cup.

“It’s just coming together, we’re really relaxed but we’ve still got that competitive edge,” he said.

“I think last year coming in, I wasn’t really in the mood to be a leader or anything like that, but this year it seems like Joel, myself, Jobe still comes in and gets everybody going, and Swancott and there’s inclusions like Bren, everyone looks upto him.Then we’ve got little razzlers like Remo, Benny Hay and Pat Brown who can feed off the information that we give.

“It just seems to be working well, all the combinations.”

While the Jaffas have lived up to expectations, new-look Charlestown have made a flying start with three wins.Ljubo Milicevicis the Blues’ star recruit and his battle with the Griffiths brothers, hisformer Jets teammates, will be a highlight of the clash on Sunday.

“I’m sure it will be good to watch him,” Ryan said. “He’s always a very entertaining human being and he’ll let you know that.

“He’s obviously a good footballer andI think it’s important to have a player like Ljubo, or an experienced ex-pro in your team. It just helps a lot of the younger boys and helps structure the team a lot better. That’s definitely a factor for Charlestown’s success.”

Also Sunday, Adamstown hostLake Macquarie, Edgeworth playthe Jets Youth and Broadmeadow are away to Weston.On Saturday, Maitland host Valentine.

All games start at2.30pm.

Maitland coach Michael Bolch said he would field the same squad for the first time this season, while Valentine counterpart Darren Sills will be without Luke Willard (wedding) and the injured Chris Brown and Zac Sneddon.

Lake Macquarie coach Nick Webb said his last-placed side would be full-strength and have no excuses against Adamstown.

Webb has been frustrated by the Roosters’ poor conversion rate in front of goals in the past two weeks and said they should have beaten Charlestown and Weston.

Edgeworth coach Damian Zane said veteran Daniel McBreen hadovercome a hamstring problem and would take on the Jets Youth.

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