Despite a niggling calf strain, Dave Taylor is happy with his pre-season condition. Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
He's the biggest water baby getting around but Gold Coast wrecking-ball Dave Taylor has credited a new-found affinity with the ocean for heading towards the 2014 season in close to the best shape of his career.
Restricted by a nagging calf injury that has hampered the amount of running he has been able to do throughout the pre-season thus far, Taylor has made a new best friend with his surfboard and says that hours spent paddling has him at a weight comparable to when he burst onto the scene as a 17-year-old with the Broncos back in 2006.
"I'm sitting at about 120-121 [kilograms] at the moment, which is the lightest I've been since Broncs days so I'm really happy with where I'm at," Taylor said.
"I did a lot of paddling during the off-season, just long paddles and surfing as well so I've put a lot of time into the ocean.
"I love everything to do with water. Growing up we had a big lake out home [at Blackwater] and we were always in the water and that continued from me moving to the beach.
"I get on the board and go out every day and paddle and before I know it my arms are tired... It's a pretty tough gig to paddle for a couple of hours. I spend 2-2-1/2 hours at a time out there and if it wasn't going for a long paddle it was just surfing, which keeps me off my legs as well.
"Surfing's pretty gruelling on your shoulders if you're continuously padding all the time. It's pretty easy if you just lay around out there and catch one or two waves and come in but I spend about two hours out there continuously paddling and I found the weight coming off a little bit."
Teammate Ashley Harrison is one of the competition's most dedicated trainers and says he has noticed a change in the 'Coal Train' as the Titans prepare for their Christmas break.
"He's got a bit of a calf strain which has limited his training a little bit this pre-season but his weight's down and he's really got his head around where he's got to be to play his best footy," Harrison said. "We saw a bit of a glimpse of that at the end of last year so we're hoping he can produce a bit more of that early [in the 2014 season]."
With wife Ashlee currently studying to be a dietician at university ("She just takes a little bit off the plate and puts it in for lunch tomorrow," says Taylor) the former Queensland Origin rep hopes to receive good news when he goes for a scan on his calf on Thursday so that he can hit the ground running in the new year.
"It's quite frustrating. I've tried doing everything I can with it. It comes good over a week and then just goes again so hopefully we can have a good look at it on Thursday and find out more information," the 25-year-old said.
"I'm training super hard and doing everything that I can to stay fit. While I'm not running I'm spending time in the altitude chamber.
"It's tough coming in every day knowing you're just going to get flogged in the altitude chamber but I'm quite happy with my fitness at the moment."