Opinion: Time for Dave Taylor to step up
With his team's finals aspirations hanging by a thread amidst a casualty ward that is growing with every game, the time has come for Dave Taylor to prove he still has a future in the NRL.
The Titans go into Sunday's clash with the Roosters at Central Coast Stadium as the longest-priced underdogs of the season and in desperate need of a standout performance from one of only two players in their team with Origin experience.
Unquestionably down on confidence having fallen out of favour with Titans officials, Taylor has been thrust back into the starting team against the Roosters two weeks after he was left out of the 17 altogether for the game against the Bulldogs.
With rare physical gifts he has been described by many as having the potential to be the greatest forward the game has ever known, yet over the past decade Taylor has managed to continually confound some of the sharpest minds in rugby league.
First Wayne Bennett, then Michael Maguire and now Neil Henry; all have racked their brilliant brains to work out what makes the soon to be 27-year-old tick and yet the confines to his consistency remain firmly in check.
Last week against the Warriors Taylor came onto the field for Ryan James in the 22nd minute and his first involvement was a charge down on halfway that, while it gifted the Warriors a repeat set, was at least a positive sign of intent.
Shortly thereafter he copped a knock to the nose that rattled him for a few minutes but Taylor went on to run for 132 metres and make 24 tackles in 58 minutes; decent numbers by anyone's standards.
But racking up numbers won't be enough to ensure Taylor remains a Titan beyond 2015.
As much as he can stand out in attack it is the defensive end where Taylor puts the greatest pressure on his team by struggling to slide and cover on the inside.
On a number of occasions against the Warriors when there was a hole opening up in the Titans' defensive line it was Taylor who was the man on the inside not making that extra effort to close the gap. There were occasions when teammates physically dragged him across to keep the defensive line in check.
The one-time Test representative looked cumbersome and down on confidence, trying to process mentally what his next move should be rather than simply trusting his instincts.
It adds weight to the critics' suggestion that he is lazy in defence and his inability to put his giant frame in position is largely to blame for the few occasions he has physically rocked an opposition player with a tackle capable of inspiring his teammates.
His current lack of confidence was no more evident than when he died with the ball in his possession on the last tackle 20 metres out from the Warriors line late in the first half rather than dribbling a kick into the corner; three weeks earlier he had kicked on the third tackle 10 metres out from the opposition try-line to hand over possession.
It is unrealistic to expect Taylor to dominate every game in which he plays – the NRL is too tough for anyone to be able to do that – but it is not too much for fans to expect his best effort every week.
Although he remains contracted for a further season the Titans are searching high and low for someone – anyone – to take him off their hands yet, as he showed last season when against all odds he earned his place back in the Queensland team, Dave Taylor at his best is one of the most damaging players the Titans have on their books.
The next 10 weeks will tell us all we need to know about Dave Taylor; whether he will remain a rare talent unfulfilled or whether he is ready to make the sacrifices necessary to become the player his teammates can rely on.