Taylor signing most important in Titans history

When Wayne Bennett popped his head up in the week of the Round 22 local derby to express his interest in bringing the Titans' reigning rookie of the year back to Brisbane, officials on the Gold Coast should have taken a cue from the 1986 horror movie, 'The Fly': "Be afraid, be very afraid."

In announcing his three-year extension on the glitter strip on Wednesday that will ensure Ashley Taylor stays a Titan until at least the end of the 2021 season, the 22-year-old superstar in the making said that he never really considered a move back to the Broncos where he came through the junior ranks and made his NRL debut in 2015.

Titans CEO Graham Annesley and chief operating officer Tony Mestrov shrewdly made sure the Broncos could never make a formal approach by putting Taylor under lock and key beyond 2018 a week before the vultures could begin to circle.

But at this point Taylor's retention is more about what didn't happen than what possibly will.

With all due respect to the rocks on which the Titans foundation was built – Preston Campbell, Scott Prince, Luke Bailey and Anthony Laffranchi – keeping Taylor is the most important signing that the Titans have made since coming into the competition in 2007 because losing Taylor at this point of his career to the overpowering influence of the Broncos had the potential to bring the club to its knees.

Where Jarryd Hayne had been viewed as the panacea to all of Gold Coast's problems little more than 12 months ago, the future success of the franchise now very much rests with a precocious kid from St George in western Queensland who seemed destined for greatness from a young age.

Junior coaches have spoken of the advanced football IQ that he displayed from a very early age while Taylor's most recent influence, new Titans coach Garth Brennan, describes a young man with the maturity to be able to cope with the expectation that comes with a million-dollar price tag.

No Gold Coast team has lasted as long in a national competition as the Titans' current stretch of 11 seasons but a cloud of uncertainty has hovered semi-permanently over the franchise as poor on-field results were exacerbated by off-field issues.

The Centre of Excellence promised a new era of professionalism before its collapse virtually made the club financially destitute and alienated a large part of the local fan base.

There were serious drug allegations lodged against players, not to mention offences that brought unwanted public attention for such things as drink driving and public urination. Couple that with a winning record that over the most recent seven-year period reads 63 wins from 169 games at a winning percentage of just 37.3 per cent and it is little wonder survival was a struggle.

The signing of Jarryd Hayne last August has created positive and negative headlines in equal measures, star signing Kevin Proctor was embroiled in a drugs scandal whilst in camp with the Kiwis two months after being named co-captain and coach Neil Henry was sacked less than 12 months after taking a team tipped to finish last into the finals.

Had Taylor waited a week longer and even entertained the idea of a return to Red Hill where on the surface a premiership would appear within reach much sooner, the uncertainty surrounding the Titans would have persisted until he made a decision either way.

 

 

He may not have reached quite the heights of his 2016 rookie year but Taylor showed tremendous toughness and resilience this season to be the only Titan to appear in every game in a team that outside of two three-game winning streaks won only one other game all year.

His sublime kicking game contributed significantly to an equal NRL-high of 19 regular season try assists and even in games where his team looked beaten absolutely everywhere else across the park, Taylor showed an uncoachable ability to keep his side in the contest with a piece of play to swing momentum back his side's way.

His elevated pay packet puts Taylor among the realms of the very best players in the game today but it was an outlay that the Titans could not afford not to make, no matter the cost in the short-term.

Because seeing one of the most promising talents in the game walk out the door of a club still desperately seeking to establish its identity may have meant that there was no long-term for the Titans to worry about anyway.