Young stars inspire new leader Taylor
Mid-season Wests Tigers recruit Elijah Taylor says a search for more senior leadership was behind his recruitment by coach Jason Taylor, and the 10-Test veteran has a new lease on life leading the talented young stars at the club around.
The Tigers have one of the youngest rosters in the NRL – at 25 Aaron Woods is a young captain and besides him, fellow Blues Origin rep Robbie Farah and veterans Chris Lawrence and Dene Halatau, significant NRL experience is thin on the ground at Concord.
So when out-of-favour Panther Elijah Taylor became available, coach Jason Taylor put the fellers out in an effort to boost his roster's big-game know-how.
The New Zealand international has slotted in like a dream, helping guide the team's attack, adding plenty of starch to the middle and helping the club to three wins in his five starts to lift them to within a win of the top eight.
"Before I signed, talking to 'JT' – that (leadership) was probably the main reason to get me to come to the club," Taylor said.
"He wanted some more leadership because obviously we've got a really young team. Really young as in NRL games each, on average. That was the first pitch, was the leadership role.
"It's something I'm very comfortable with. It's something that I've done over my career. I'm really excited working with the young talent here.
"As senior players you need to set the good example, you need to do everything right, you need to make sure you're doing everything right so hopefully they can follow."
The new signing described the level of young talent at the Tigers as "unbelievable". Specifically, young halves Luke Brooks and Mitch Moses as well as fullback James Tedesco, who as a unit have the potential to lead the club to plenty of success for years to come.
"They've got a lot of enthusiasm and it rubs off on a lot of the boys. It's really refreshing when you see them at training. Freakish skills," Taylor said.
"Just the enthusiasm they bring and it kind of lightens the mood sometimes, you can be really focused 100 per cent at training sometimes but just the enthusiasm rubs off and it's just really good to play alongside young talent who are going to be future stars of this game."
Both young talent and old will need to be switched on when the black and golds travel south to Melbourne on Sunday in search of what would be the joint venture's second win in their 12th visit to Melbourne (across Olympic Park, Docklands and AAMI Park).
Taylor himself will be representing the club in Melbourne for the first time but has his own unhappy memories of the city.
"I went there with Penrith last year. We got pumped (52-10). It was Cameron Smith's 300th game and we got smashed so it wasn't the best memories there!"
While Smith and fellow Kangaroo Cooper Cronk rightly get plenty of plaudits, Taylor says it's the big men up front – and their Kiwi Test contingent of Jesse Bromwich, Tohu Harris and Kevin Proctor in particular – who are the reason for Melbourne's recent hot run of NRL form.
"They've got a great system down there, a great culture. I know a lot of the boys from the Kiwis in that team and that's why they're so successful," Taylor said.
"[Their Kiwi Test forwards] are why they're on top of the table, I think. They can play long minutes, they're big, they've got skills, they've got good feet. Same with [Nelson Asofa] Solomona and [Dale] Finucane. They've got a great forward pack. I think it's very underrated and it's going to be a very tough game in the middle.
"We've got to go down there, turn up defensively and work hard defensively. That's all we've been doing over the last month, just working on our defence and slowly it's getting better. We've just got to keep that going."