Elijah Taylor knocked back an approach from the Warriors to renege on his his Panthers deal to become a two-way player under Ivan Cleary. Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
It took less than one week for Elijah Taylor to stand where so many others have stood before, watching on in jaw-dropped awe as new teammate Tyrone Peachey flaunted his full attacking repertoire in front of the entire coaching staff during an opposed pre-season session.
"Man, I've only been here a week but he's the one I'm excited about playing with the most. All his skills are outstanding for a back-rower," Taylor told NRL.com.
If jealousy was a curse, then consider Taylor damned for the rest of eternity.
"And the size of him – he's not the biggest second-rower running around but mate, he'll put his body there and that shows his heart," he continued.
"That's all you need in this game: heart, hard work and skills."
According to the humble ex-Warrior himself, the first two are what have gotten him this far, culminating in a three-year deal at the foot of the mountains he penned early last year.
But the skills part – think Sonny Bill William's endless bag of one-handed tricks – is what Taylor believes has so far evaded him.
Even back when the he led the Junior Warriors to their first under-20s premiership in 2009, Taylor had already garnered the reputation as a workhorse. He was a tackling machine. A defensive anchor.
But in 2014, Taylor reckons that to get past a bulging depth chart that already includes Peachey, Lewis Brown, Sika Manu, Nigel Plum, Adam Docker and Bryce Cartwright, he'll have to learn how to play better with the ball than he does without it.
"I want to evolve here," said Taylor, who with almost 30 tackles a game is set to be one of the Panthers' best performers in Holden NRL Fantasy this season.
"I don't want to be known as someone who only tackles. I definitely need to improve on my attack, it's something that I really have to focus on this year.
"Don't get me wrong, defence is the platform of my game. That's where I build my confidence, that's what I can work off. But if I can add on attack as well, hopefully I can go a step up."
Reuniting with old Warriors coach Ivan Cleary should help. Part of the plan in moving his young family away from home in Auckland in the first place was to reacquaint with the man who led the Warriors to the 2011 grand final, all in the hope of becoming a two-way player.
"It's definitely the goal. A different environment makes you get back on your toes. It keeps you fresh," Taylor said.
"It's like I have to prove myself to all the players here, where back at the Warriors, all the boys knew what I could do. I could just coast [there], just do the training. But here I have to make sure I do everything properly, get my fight back a little bit."
Hailing from the South Taranaki town of Hawera on the north island of New Zealand, the World Cup representative says that so far the move has been smooth. And in a month where a number of players have gotten themselves on the wrong side with the community, Taylor is welcoming a change in environment.
"The community feel was the first thing I noticed. It's a community club," he said.
"Everybody in town supports Penrith. Everybody I've bumped into has a Penrith jersey. And we do a lot of community work, from what I've seen and what I've heard, which is good. I'll probably be able to give a better description in a month's time, but so far the entire transition has been good."
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