Titans poised to wrap up Taylor long term
They have represented the backup plan for players unable to crack the Broncos' starting team in recent years but the Titans are confident they can strike a major blow in the south-east Queensland rivalry by wrapping up in-demand halfback Ash Taylor long term.
The CEOs of the respective clubs, Gold Coast's Graham Annesley and Paul White from the Broncos, joined forces on the iconic Main Beach at Surfers Paradise on Thursday to promote Saturday's local derby at Cbus Super Stadium whilst also supporting the Thomas Kelly Foundation and raising awareness of the damage one-punch 'coward' attacks can cause.
With six straight wins to the elder of the two clubs the rivalry between the Titans and Broncos has been very lopsided in recent years and Wayne Bennett's assertion that he'd be interested in bringing Taylor back to Red Hill when his contract expires at the end of next season sent further shudders through Titans supporters.
But the Titans are already in deep discussions with Taylor and his management about extending his tenure on the Gold Coast for a further three years that would keep him on the coast through until at least the end of the 2021 season.
With senior players such as Nathan Peats committing long term and confident that the club is on the verge of becoming a serious force in the Telstra Premiership, the retention of Taylor is seen as a critical piece of the puzzle. To lose him to their nearest rival would be a gut-punch to the NRL's youngest franchise.
In the past three years former Broncos such as Taylor, Josh Hoffman, David Hala, Jarrod Wallace and most recently Keegan Hipgrave have come to the Titans directly down the M1 and Annesley said that it is up to the club to prove to Taylor that he is best served by staying rather than heading north once again.
"Ash is a very, very important part of our club going forward, he's aware of that. We are talking to him and his management at this stage," Annesley said, with a crowd in excess of 20,000 predicted to turn out on Saturday evening.
"Any player is entitled to see what the interest is for their services but we'll be doing everything we can to try and keep Ash on the Gold Coast.
"We see the future as building a team around him and we'll be doing everything we can to keep him.
"The Broncos let Ash go because of their roster and we've picked him up.
"He's gone from being a rookie to being an established member of our team and one of the real prospects of being one of the great players in the game.
"He's only early in his career and he's still got a lot of development to do but he shows all the hallmarks of being around for a long time and we'd like to see him on the Gold Coast for the rest of his career.
"Players know whether clubs are on the improve or whether they're on the downward spiral and I'd like to think that our club in recent years has shown that we're definitely on the improve.
"We've attracted some high quality players over the last couple of years and we need to retain the basis of our team and we need to supplement that with new signings in the future."
Broncos CEO Paul White defended the timing of Bennett's comments with regards to Taylor and stressed that his club's No.1 priority at present is the retention of their captain, Darius Boyd.
White also challenged Broncos supporters to make the most of a rare Saturday afternoon timeslot for their team in south-east Queensland and send a strong message to the NRL that they want to see their team play on weekends by helping to fill Cbus Super Stadium this weekend.
"From our club's perspective, we're really excited by the game. We're down here because we want to promote this, it's a genuine local derby," White said.
"It's the only game that our members and supporters don't have to hop on a plane to travel to see us play and the beauty of this game is that it is on a Saturday afternoon.
"I'm on the record as saying we're desperate for some afternoon footy up in Brisbane so I hope people take up the challenge and support this game in large numbers and we'll provide a great argument back to NRL central in terms of the Queensland public's appetite for afternoon rugby league.
"Albeit in the twilight timeslot but it's the closest our players will come to having sun on their backs at the start of the game this season."