Raiders leaders can set Taylor on right path
The wealth of leaders throughout the Canberra forward pack can set former Kangaroos and Maroons giant Dave Taylor on the path to NRL success, according to club five-eighth Blake Austin.
With Country Origin representative Paul Vaughan squeezed out of the club following the emergence of young stars like Clay Priest and the recruitment of Eels giant Junior Paulo, coach Ricky Stuart opted to give former Broncos, Rabbitohs and Titans back-rower Taylor a train-and-trial chance in the nation's capital.
The arrangement carries no financial risk for the club with Taylor needing to prove himself every step of the way to get even a look-in down the track with the top-grade squad.
This is certainly not guaranteed given the 28-year-old's past failures to eke the best out of his obvious ability.
But with the likes of Sia Soliola, Jeff Lima, Elliott Whitehead, Josh Papalii, Shaun Fensom and now-Test stars Shannon Boyd and Joe Tapine on the roster, the Raiders could be the club to get the best out of Taylor, according to Austin.
"We've certainly got the leaders down there that can have him on the right track and I reckon he could make a good fist of it for sure," Austin told NRL.com.
"I'm not too far around [the thinking behind his offer] but I've definitely marked Dave Taylor in the past as a young kid coming through and they’re some of the scariest moments of my NRL career. I think he'd be great to add to our squad," Austin added.
Austin said despite the loss of Paul Vaughan to the Dragons, the recruitment of Dunamis Lui from the Dragons as well as Taylor means the club will continue to boast a frightening level of forward depth.
"The forward depth there is pretty good; we've just signed Dunamis Lui as well that will add to that. Things are looking good, we're all signed on for a couple of years and we're really looking forward to what we can create," he said.
Canberra were one of the real surprise packets of 2016; while few were surprised they emerged as finals contenders, their achievement in finishing second on the ladder and going within one game of the Telstra Premiership decider given the major changes to their squad – after finishing outside the top eight in 2015 – surprised many.
It's even more impressive given the lack of off-season first-choice halves Austin and Aidan Sezer enjoyed this time last year due to injuries, and some continuity for the fit-again pair will stand the club in good stead ahead of 2017, according to Austin.
"The most exciting thing for me and Aidan is we're going to get a full pre-season under our belt," he said.
"We were pretty staggered last year; I had my [injury] issues and Aidan was coming off surgery too. I can get my base fitness that's required to perform at this level and just can't wait to rip in. The season comes around pretty quick so it's about working hard and being ready."
Speaking to NRL.com at a juniors clinic, king-of-the-kids Austin said he wasn't accustomed to having early November off and said the chance to keep himself busy while he waits for the Raiders to return to training was welcome.
Coming off his first-ever NRL finals series, Austin is more accustomed to being at clubs pulling players in for an early start to pre-season as the likes of Wests Tigers, Parramatta, the Dragons, Roosters, Rabbitohs, Sea Eagles and Knights have this week.
"It's really hitting home [how well we went last year] now seeing a lot of the teams back training and we've still got a few weeks left," Austin said.
"In a way it's a weird feeling having no training, you sort of don't know what to do with yourself and that's why days like this are great. A couple of days we'll be itching to get back to training."