Ash Taylor taking nothing for granted
He has already been lauded as one of the breakthrough rookies of 2016 but Titans half Ashley Taylor insists the return of Kane Elgey from injury will push him to even greater heights next season.
Unsurprisingly Taylor was named Rookie of the Year at the Titans' presentation night on Monday night and along with Penrith's Nathan Cleary is one of the leading contenders for the equivalent Dally M gong next Monday.
Nursing a finger injury sustained in his NRL debut for the Broncos in Round 26 last season, Taylor spent the majority of the pre-season playing second fiddle to coach Neil Henry's first-choice halves pairing of Elgey and Tyrone Roberts.
When Elgey was ruled out for the season in the first week of January Taylor and Roberts were quickly thrust together and formed a formidable partnership forged by their strong friendship off the field.
Twelve months on and an Elgey-Taylor partnership appears most likely in Gold Coast's halves next season but Taylor said he is by no means assuming that he is guaranteed to be a starting half for Round 1.
"There's still spots up for grabs so I'm not going to take it like I have got a position here next year and I'm going to attack the pre-season like I haven't before," said Taylor, who signed a one-year contract extension taking him through until the end of the 2018 season.
"[Elgey] has been back off his injury and training with our team and been looking great at training.
"I just can't wait to get stuck into a good pre-season with him and obviously Tyrone's going to be there as well."
In news that will have Titans fans giddy with excitement at what 2017 could bring, Paul Broughton medallist Ryan James said Elgey had been turning heads at training following his return from an ACL injury.
"He trained against us before the Broncos game and I've never seen someone come back to a training session and be watched like that," James said.
"He set up a couple of tries against the first grade squad… and then we've got someone like Tyrone Roberts who is an excellent player and held Ash together a lot this year.
"Those two (Roberts and Taylor) together really complement each other so it's going to be interesting to see what happens there. We've got three great halves so it's good for the club."
While Taylor has been left to accept all the plaudits, the 21-year-old said that the influence of Roberts both on and off the field contributed significantly to his quick transition into the top grade and hopes that their combination is not definitely over.
"Me and T's combination was great this year and we led the boys around the field so if it is to go down the lines of Kane we're going to have to build something pretty special because me and Tyrone had a great year this year," Taylor said.
"He still deserves his spot but Kane has got to prove himself in the pre-season next year to be in the team.
"[Roberts] was most important. He's been there for me when I needed it most through my downtimes, through my injury as well he's been helping me.
"He's been a brother to me since the start and no matter what happens here next year he'll always be a brother to me."
An Australian Schoolboy and Junior Kangaroos representative, Taylor's dream rookie season made him a highly valued commodity should he be on the open market but the Toowoomba junior said he had no doubt committing his immediate future to the Titans.
"I just think that the club's going in the right direction," Taylor said.
"There's been a big difference from the past years to this year, we've had a successful year this year and I just want to keep being a part of it for the years to come.
"That's what it was all about, getting it over and done with and worrying about my footy. Getting over my injuries and getting my surgery done and preparing myself for next season."