Taylor can be NRL force again, says Taia
Gold Coast back-rower Zeb Taia believes Dave Taylor can be a force again in the NRL next season but says it is entirely dependent on how hard the former Origin and Test star is prepared to work for it.
Taylor has been granted a 'train and trial' contract with the Raiders after being dumped one year into his Super League stint with Catalans Dragons with Canberra coach Ricky Stuart to evaluate his commitment prior to Christmas with a view to trial games in February.
With sentencing for pleading guilty to cocaine possession still hanging over his head, a formal contract would need to be approved by the NRL before the 28-year-old is permitted to resume a career which to date boasts 170 games at the Broncos, Rabbitohs and Titans.
As Taylor was leaving the Gold Coast for France this time last year Taia was making the exact opposite journey, determined to prove to himself more than anyone that he could still cut it in the game's toughest competition.
The only game that the 32-year-old missed all season was Gold Coast's 44-28 elimination final loss to the Broncos and he believes he is proof players can excel in the NRL after stints in Super League.
"I've always rated Dave Taylor and I think this could be good for him, make him hungrier and make him want it more," Taia said of Taylor's incentive-based deal at Canberra.
"He's gone to a really good team and I can see him making the top 17 there easy but it's a lot of hard work and dedication that he needs to put into it.
"If he wants it, he'll definitely be in that top 17 next year. It's just a matter of how much he wants it.
"I'm just one of the players that has proved you can do it. Sia Soliola did it really well and is going on to a third year back in the NRL.
"You've got guys like Josh Hodgson who have come over from the Super League that's done really well and there are a lot of good players over there still.
"It's proof that it's not quite the end of your career if you're going to Super League.
"You go over there, you act like a proper professional and do everything right and you'll still get interest from the NRL that's for sure."
Named in the Super League Team of the Year in 2015, Taia had actually signed a further two-year deal to remain at Catalans but said once there was interest from the likes of the Titans and St George Illawarra that a return to the NRL was a "no-brainer".
"It was more to prove to myself and give hope to dudes that have gone over to the Super League and are playing well over there that if they're ever up for a challenge, to come back to the NRL," said Taia, whose first daughter was born just two weeks before he was due to start training in France towards the end of 2012.
"I missed the NRL that bad and I was watching it every week and I just thought in myself that I could still cut it back there.
"Once my manager said I was getting some strong interest to come back to the NRL, it only took a half hour chat with my missus before we decided we wanted to come home.
"Once I knew that there were some offers coming in that were concrete, it was a no-brainer. I was definitely coming back to the NRL.
"I had to get a release from Catalans but they were really good about it. They understood where I was coming from and I owe a lot to them for understanding my situation at the time.
"I'm happy they didn't stand in my way because they would have had an unhappy player, staying there for another two years knowing I could have been back here in the NRL."
The Titans have added a further recruit for 2017 from the Super League in Wigan centre Dan Sarginson but are losing both Greg Bird (Catalans) and Luke Douglas (St Helens) to the northern hemisphere.
Along with the departures of David Mead (Brisbane), Josh Hoffman (Parramatta) and the retirement of Nathan Friend, it has left a leadership void at the club but Taia doesn't believe he needs to change his approach in order to take on a more senior role.
"I'm just going to be me, the same as what I was this year," said Taia.
"It is sad seeing a lot of players leave – especially 'Birdy' – and we're going to miss guys like 'Meady', Joshy Hoffman and Nene [Macdonald] because they were basically the whole left edge that I was playing alongside.
"It will be interesting to see what happens now, who comes in, but we've got Jarrod Wallace who had a great season at the Broncos and Dan Sarginson so those two players will definitely add a lot to the team and I'd say they'd add a lot of leadership as well."