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Australian footballers are 'smarter': Taylor

Wests Tigers forward Elijah Taylor believes Australian footballers are "smarter" than their Kiwi counterparts in junior systems and the Warriors are paying a price for it after another failed season.

Taylor spent three years at the Warriors but was quick to move on after four coaching changes throughout that period – including current coach Ivan Cleary's move to Penrith in 2012, where Taylor soon followed.

Speaking at the Wests Tigers presentation night last week – in which the 27-year-old was awarded the Kelly-Barnes medal for player of the year – Taylor questioned the development systems in place at his former club, starting at the grassroots. 

"Back in New Zealand the game is about power and running over someone - instead of skill, tactics and kicking game," Taylor said.

"Kicking games are non-existent until you come to the under-20s. It's all about physical football – not completions or wrestle.

"Australia have a lot of halves and people that are smart footballers. The pathways [in New Zealand] aren't as good and the quality of play."

While the Warriors featured five players in the Kiwis line-up back in May, including the spine of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Kieran Foran, Shaun Johnson and Issac Luke, the overall side have been developed in Australia.

Of the four, only Shaun Johnson has come through the Warriors system, while veteran Simon Mannering is the other notable player in the New Zealand side.

Rather than focus on the lack of Warriors contingent in the Kiwis outfit, Taylor argued players like Jesse Bromwich, Kevin Proctor and even Tuivasa-Sheck wouldn't be the players they are today without the help of Australian-based clubs.

"If a Peta Hiku stayed at the Warriors they had Manu Vatuvei there, so he wouldn't have the opportunity," Taylor said.

"The Warriors wanted to sign Roger Tuivasa-Sheck before he signed with the Roosters.

"He would've been behind Vatuvei and might not have got the opportunity. For him to go to the Roosters and win a premiership, then go back as a Warriors captain – it's a win-win for New Zealand rugby league.

"There are 16 NRL clubs and a lot of talent in New Zealand. They get an opportunity elsewhere and it's good for rugby league."

Taylor was also adamant travel was a key hurdle the Warriors fail to overcome each season after Stephen Kearney's side managed just one win on the road in 2017.

Expectations were high for the club this season with Foran's signing the final piece of the puzzle, but the Warriors barely lifted off the ground.

Taylor backed coach Stephen Kearney after playing under the mentor at the international level for the Kiwis.

"Three hours one way in two days is [standard] travel for the Warriors, you're cramming it into one day when you've got back-to-back away trips," he said.

"That's the only thing I can come up with, because I know they train hard. They've got the roster, facilities, financial backing and the sponsors.

"Steve Kearney is a great coach and they've got the roster. I know they had a Melbourne-style pre-season."

Meanwhile, Taylor was honoured to receive the first ever Kelly-Barnes medal after a stellar season at the Wests Tigers. 

The lock-forward was nearly lost to rugby league last year after being dumbed to reserve grade at Penrith, before former coach Jason Taylor offered him a lifeline at Concord.

After featuring in the Kiwis' extended squad for the Test Match in May, Taylor is tipped to make a return to the international arena in the Rugby League World Cup tournament in October.

Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary also indicated Taylor was a genuine option to take over the captaincy at the club next season following the exit of Aaron Woods to the Bulldogs.


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