Gold Coast Titans 2017 Season in Review
Ash Taylor is just 22, but has set himself dual goals of being the best player in the game and leading the Gold Coast Titans to premiership contention.
For someone with only 47 NRL games under their belt at a club which finished 15th last season, they are lofty aspirations.
Earlier in 2017 Matthew Johns said Taylor was a better half than his brother Andrew and future Immortal Johnathan Thurston at the same stage of their careers.
As part of his bid to reach that level, new Titans head of performance Hayden Knowles has been pushing Taylor to his limits.
“Hayden has been up front with me about the need to drive myself and to have the determination to be the best player in the game,” Taylor told NRL.com.
“That is my goal, to be the game’s best player.
“It is obviously long term. I’ve got to build towards it, but JT was a late bloomer and hopefully I can take it all the way.
“Hayden has told me ‘you need to be fitter and you need to be more agile’. ‘’There is not a person in the NRL who can say they are the fittest except for JT, one of the greats, who is everywhere on the field.
“That is the level you’ve got to be to be great.”
Scott Prince was the foundation half at the Titans, and when they made the finals in 2009 and 2010 it was on the back of his dominance as a playmaker.
For the Titans to be successful again Taylor has to own the team the way Prince did.
“Princey was a great player and I can learn a lot from what he did,” Taylor said.
“I have signed for four more seasons here and I am more than happy to play for the Titans.
“Sometimes it is not about being the Big Kahuna at the big clubs. It is about building the little clubs.
“The Titans gave me a leg-up and a start in the NRL and it is all about giving back and trying to take this club all the way and into premiership contention.”
Despite having started out in the Brisbane Broncos system, Taylor said he had no serious consideration to return to the club that developed him as a junior.
“There was a lot of talk but there wasn’t really a deal on the table,” he said.
“I’d been at the Broncos since I was 14 and in the back of my head I wanted to give back more to the club that developed me to be an NRL player.
“I was very honoured and proud to play one NRL game for the Broncos, but I feel that my best direction forward is here at the Titans and helping the club get back on its feet.”
Taylor developed a bond with Garth Brennan over the phone last season after his good mate Tyrone Roberts - who had been coached by Brennan at Newcastle - recommended him as a mentor.
When Brennan signed on as coach, Taylor was only too happy time to sign a four-year extension at the Titans.
“I signed after Garth got the job and that was a big factor because I needed the security of knowing who the coach was going to be and where the club was heading,” Taylor said.
“It was massive for me to know the club was in good hands, and I know it is with Garth. He is a great coach and I have a lot of confidence he can take this club a long way.
“As a half you want to be dominant on the field and it is just great that Garth is backing me to be that guy. I am not going to let him or my teammates down.
“I am working hard now to be in perfect shape for when the first round comes around so I am all guns blazing.”
Brennan said Taylor had “a lot more development to go to get where he needs to be” but insisted the potential was there for him to lead the Titans to great things.
“The way he plays excites me and he is a young guy who you can tell loves playing footy, loves the ball in his hands and loves creating things,” Brennan said.
“He is not a robot, and I don’t want him to be. He does some special things and I want to bring the best out of him in that area.”