Taylor backs Nikorima to replace Pearce
Former Broncos under-20s teammates Ashley Taylor and Jayden Nikorima left Red Hill to seek NRL opportunities elsewhere and now both appear in line to debut for their respective new clubs in Round 1 next month.
The signing of Tyrone Roberts and an awful hand injury in his NRL debut in Round 26 appeared to have Taylor as the odd-man out in the Titans' pecking order in the halves but the season-ending knee injury to Kane Elgey in a training mishap on January 4 has changed everything.
Similarly, Nikorima – who remains eligible for the under-20s – was signed by the Roosters as cover in the halves and at fullback but with Mitchell Pearce's immediate playing future in doubt due to his "unacceptable" behaviour on Australia Day he could partner Jackson Hastings in the halves in a Round 1 blockbuster against the Rabbitohs.
While Taylor and Nikorima were together in the halves last year the Broncos were one of the standout teams of the Holden Cup and after representing both Queensland and the Junior Kangaroos in 2015 are ready for the next level according to Taylor.
"Me and Jayden became pretty close last year and we both left the club. I've kept in touch with him pretty much the whole time," Taylor said ahead of his Titans debut at this weekend's Downer NRL Auckland Nines.
"He's a real good mate of mine and I'd love for him to get a chance down there since all that Mitchell Pearce stuff. Hopefully he gets an opportunity just like I did. I can't wait for him to play.
"I'm more than confident he can step up. He's a short, stocky guy and obviously he shone in the 20s, played for Queensland and Australia and if he hadn't done his shoulder he would have been up in contention for 20s player of the year last year as well."
The young man who was named the Holden Cup Player of the Year was Taylor himself who made something of an ill-fated NRL debut in Round 26 against the Storm last year.
Deputising for Ben Hunt who was nursing a hamstring injury, it was in the 30th minute that Taylor suffered compound fractures to two fingers in an innocuous-looking tackle, an injury that required further corrective surgery during the pre-season.
It may have been a brief cameo that ended up in hospital but the 20-year-old said that taste of first grade will be enough to give him the confidence to start his career at the Titans on the right note.
"It makes me feel a bit more confident than going in with a fresh start," said Taylor.
"You never want to go into a season just being thrown into the deep end so just getting that little start and the experience of a lead-up to a game, having all your family around you and watching you. This time around it won't be as much nerves.
"I can go in pretty confident that I'm going to perform and everyone stepping up.
"I think I was ready even last year. I knew that I was ready to play first grade last year and I was just waiting for my opportunity so when it arose last year I tried to take it but obviously my fingers..."
The injury to Elgey may have thrust Taylor into the frame for Round 1 ahead of expectations but he conceded that he still has to prove to coach Neil Henry in upcoming trial games that he has earned the right to start against the Knights.
"On the circumstances, I don't like it, I'd rather be fighting for a spot rather than now just being given the jersey," he said of the injury to Elgey.
"I've got to step up now because Kane's gone down. Kane was a leader too and in the leadership group so just because he's gone they're not going to lose another leader. I'm going to stand up and bring the qualities that I have, talking to the forwards and more importantly learning off Tyrone [Roberts].
"There's only me and Tyrone here now for the time being so I've just got to put my hand up and put my best foot forward.
"[Henry] still wants me to perform because there are only two halves here. He hasn't really given me the jersey; I've still got to fight for it.
"You never just get handed an NRL jersey, it doesn't come around too often so I've still got to fight hard for the jersey and that's what I'm doing.