Wests Tigers forward Elijah Taylor at the Mangere East community visit ahead of the Auckland Nines.

Conversation that saved Taylor's career

Last year Elijah Taylor returned home to New Zealand to attend the tangi (traditional Maori funeral) of his uncle with whom he was close, while at the same time questioning his future in the NRL.

Discarded by the Panthers, Taylor's confidence took a major blow for the first time in his career and as he was surrounded by loved ones began to wonder whether he had "fluked" a list of achievements that to that point included 111 NRL games and 10 Tests for New Zealand.

But sitting down for a coffee and a 15-minute chat with Wests Tigers coach Jason Taylor turned into an hour-long exchange that went a long way to restoring his self-belief and convinced coach Taylor that he had the right man to lead his young Tigers.

Just seven months after joining the club Taylor was three weeks ago voted by his teammates to be part of the 2017 leadership group and on Saturday will captain the Wests Tigers at the Downer NRL Auckland Nines.

Yet it wasn't all that long ago the 26-year-old wondered whether it was all coming to an end.

"I was thinking, Have I fluked it? Maybe I've fluked it all this way. That's how I was thinking," Taylor told NRL.com.

"My confidence was shot and I've never felt that before.

"Before it happened when I'd hear of players' confidence being down I thought, It can't be that bad, but when you go through that yourself and your confidence gets rattled it can have a massive effect on the way you play, the way you think.

"There were times when I was thinking that maybe I'm not good enough anymore but thanks to Jason Taylor he gave me a shot. He really trusted and believed in what I could do and that was so refreshing and gave me a little boost.

"Just that confidence from the coach, sometimes that means everything for a player and I kind of took it for granted."

Renowned in the early part of his career as a tackling machine who would regularly rack up in excess of 50 tackles first for the Warriors and then Penrith, Taylor brought an additional ball-playing option that even his teammates didn't know existed.

Since joining the club in late June last year he has showcased a deft passing game that immediately brought a new dimension to the Tigers attack and helped to ease the pressure on young halves Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks.

"It was a bit of a surprise when he first came to our side and being able to ball play," Brooks admitted.

"It really added to our attack and I think it took a bit of the pressure off me and Mitch, having a forward being able to ball-play the way he does.

"He's been a really good addition to our team."

But more than convince his fellow Tigers that he had the skills necessary to become a pivotal part of their attack, Taylor has earned their respect, which he insists is more important than anything else in the game.

"That was at the forefront of my mind, as soon as I left Penrith was to earn the respect from all the players," said Taylor.

"I do that every team I play for, that's why I play, to earn the respect of the players.

"That was my first goal and to be nominated to be in the leadership team by all your peers that's the biggest reward you can get from footy.

"All the boys voted on a leadership group about three weeks ago and my name got put forth so it was really humbling that I was elected by the players.

"I've only been here for seven months now so just trying to lead the young boys as well as I can. If that's being captain this weekend then that's it."