Taylor a surprising spark to Tigers attack
Renowned as an 80-minute workaholic new recruit Elijah Taylor has brought an extra dimension to the Wests Tigers attack that halfback Luke Brooks says will bring the best out in his game.
Such was Taylor's influence in Wests 19-18 NRL Telstra Premiership win over the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night that it is hard to remember what the team's attack looked like without him only a month ago.
Acting as a fulcrum between the dummy-half and halves Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses, Taylor's influence gave Brooks in particular more time to weigh up his options and expose chinks in the Broncos' normally impregnable defence.
A sharp inside pass saw Taylor score his first try for the Tigers inside the first 20 minutes and they linked again late in the half for Brooks to hit Tim Simona with a cut-out pass for a try that put them in front for the first time in the game.
The fact that he topped the tackle count with 45 tackles for the Tigers comes as no surprise but Brooks admitted that he wasn't expecting the former Panther and Warrior to play such an important role with ball in hand.
"We all thought he was just a bloke who gets through a lot of work and just tackles and takes the dirty carries but he's come in and showed us his ball skills so it's been good for us," Brooks said after the Wests Tigers won two straight games for the first time since the opening two games of the season.
"I feel like off the back of him I'm running the ball more and getting the ball to the line and I think that's when I play my best footy, when I'm running to the line and taking the line on.
"He's played three games for us and we've won two of those games. I think today he got man of the match, last week he got players' player as well so he's obviously been a big help for us."
Twenty-six-year-old Taylor had played 106 first grade games before joining the Tigers last month but has had an immediately calming influence on a developing team still working out the balance between flair and precision.
"We've got a lot of young players and having another senior player in the middle to settle things down in the game when things get a bit frantic is really good for us," said Tigers skipper Chris Lawrence.
"We're obviously seeing the talent that some of our younger forwards can bring but he really has a calming influence on our attack and defence which I think you've seen over the last few weeks."
Although his input in attack came as something of a shock to his new teammates, coach Jason Taylor was in no doubt that he had a player who would contribute at both ends of the field when he secured his release from the Panthers.
"The minutes that he plays and the tackles that he makes in the middle of the field are just gold but the fact that he has got that creativity around the middle as well... he mixes his game up so nicely," said Taylor.
"He'll run if there's half a break, he'll pass short if there's an opportunity there and then when he decides to go out the back with those passes he creates opportunities or our halves.
"He's just added an extra threat to us which is great."