Six years ago, a 15-year-old Ashley Taylor was photographed with Indigenous All Stars halfback Johnathan Thurston while suiting up for an under-16s Murri side in an All Stars curtain raiser.
6 years ago my little bunji Ash Taylor represented the QLD Murri 16's before the Indigenous All-Stars. 2night he partners JT in the halves pic.twitter.com/XoObDkO7FV— Nathan Appo (@Elusive_Sausage) February 9, 2017
Fast forward to the present day and Taylor is an NRL regular who has just made his Harvey Norman All Stars debut playing in the halves alongside Thurston, who was impressed by what he saw but still had some words of advice to the young Titan: be more dominant.
Having just earned the Preston Campbell Medal for best player in the All Stars game for a second time, Thurston was involved in seemingly everything good the Indigenous team did. And the worst passage for his team came in the stages shortly before half time when he was off the field and the team lost their way a little.
"Our first 20 minutes we controlled the game really well... we probably lost our way there for 10 or 15 minutes in the second quarter but we controlled the game after half time," Thurston said in the post-match press conference.
"It's a good learning curve for a couple of our younger boys… [Ash Taylor] probably needs to be a bit more dominant, take control there in the back end of that second quarter when we lost our way a bit.
"I thought he played pretty well, he's an exciting talent and I think it's a good learning curve for a lot of those boys there."
Taylor said Thurston had given him some pointers during the break.
"It's a massive learning curve for me – it's good to learn off one of the best," Taylor said.
"He's the one that sticks behind the ruck, he demands where the forwards go and who to take the run. He's just that dominant player who does tell them what to do.
"I had a chat to him at half time, when we had that lapse in the second quarter when it was only me and Sezer out there, there wasn't really a dominant half, he had a chat to me at half-time and it's a massive learning curve for myself."
There was a nice moment early in the match when Thurston capitalised on a World All Stars dropped ball, scooping up the Steeden and firing it to Taylor. Taylor was tackled by Jarrod Croker but got a pass back to Thurston and immediately bounced to his feet to support the play and was in position to receive the pass back from Thurston to score a try.
"To get that try, I didn't want to let anyone down," Taylor said.
"I got taken out after I passed the ball and I just knew I had to get back up because I knew there was going to be space there so I got back up and fortunately enough I did get that try."
Taylor had plenty of praise for the support Thurston had given him during the week, in which they roomed together.
"He was a great roommate; it shows on the field as well, he's very organised, he makes sure I'm organised and makes sure I'm ready to go," Taylor said.
"He checked on me during the week to make sure I'm all right and tonight he helped me out there and I'm forever grateful for it."
Thurston similarly had praise for the 2016 rookie of the year.
"I roomed with him all week; it was a pleasure to spend some time with him and get to know him," Thurston said.
"He's an exciting talent, he's got a big future ahead of him."
Asked what advice he would pass on, Thurston added: "I think with the young boys it's about game management. How to control a game, how to close out a game and certainly when you're under pressure how to get your side back into a game. You do that with your halves.
"He just needed to be a bit more dominant there. Obviously he's the main playmaker at the Titans there and he needs to be a bit more dominant and tell the boys where to go, what we need, get to our kicks. We didn't get to our kicks for three or four sets in the back end of that second quarter.
"He needs to take control there, that's a learning curve and no doubt he'll be better for it."