Ash Taylor’s recent mentoring session with Australian football legend Tim Cahill has already proven a winner as the Gold Coast Titans halfback leaves no stone unturned in his bid to become the best player in the game.
The session with Cahill was organised by Titans head of athletic performance Hayden Knowles as a key component of a project Taylor initiated in his bid to become one of the Telstra Premiership's elite performers.
Taylor told NRL.com in November he was inspired by a conversation with Knowles where the Titans performance chief said that if he wanted to be the best player in the game he had to train and prepare like one.
Cahill, who almost always seems to rise to the occasion on the biggest of stages, is one of the fittest in his sport and oozes self-belief and confidence. With that in mind, Knowles knew he would be the perfect mentor for Taylor.
''Anyone I mentor I try and expose to the greats in other sports,'' Knowles told NRL.com.
''Tim understands what it takes to be the greatest and Ash is aiming that high. Some kids aim to play first grade but Ash is aiming as high as the type of person Tim already is.
''They sat down and talked for hours. It was a formal, full-on mentoring style of session and then after that we hung out socially.
''It had nothing to do with physical training, more about living life and believing.
''Tim is the greatest we have seen in this country at his sport and is going to his fourth World Cup at the age of 38, so he obviously looks after himself.
“What he said rubbed off because Ash came to training the day after he worked with Tim and he was the best I have seen him and in the top three in our drills, when he was once in middle of the pack.''
Knowles said he was not surprised that Cahill’s words had a profound impact on Taylor, just because of the source.
''I could say the same things, but I have taken a sprinter to Jamaica to train with Usain Bolt because when it comes from him it is more powerful,'' he said.
''When Tim Cahill speaks he has an aura about him. I might have to give Tim a pay rise, even though I didn’t pay him.''
Knowles said he sat down with Taylor the first day they met and had a very honest conversation.
''I said 'the best halfbacks are the fittest','' he said.
''When you think Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk, you think fit and competitive. You go back to Darren Lockyer, Andrew Johns or any of the greats and they were the fittest because they have to be so calm and clear minded to take advantage of those key moments.''
It was a conversation that struck a chord with the 22-year-old playmaker.
Knowles said a Titans dietician was assisting Taylor to eat healthily, with all members of the performances staff on the case to assist him.
''There is a whole team of us working on him being the greatest,'' Knowles said.
''Emma Russo, our sports scientist, is constantly giving me live feedback and updates during training on where Ash is at in his work rate during his training drills because we want him at that elite halfback level.
''That helps me if I need to whisper in his ear and say 'this is where you are sitting and this is where the elite halves sit', but Ash is continually blowing the numbers out of the water for us.
''Ash knows I believe in him and I tell him I need to see evidence every day that he wants to do the things that he told me, otherwise they would just be words, and he has provided that evidence to me.''
Knowles, who has worked with the game’s greats, said Taylor was ''one of the most gifted and talented kids I have seen''.
''So I have taken that extra care with him, because he obviously is the Titans' No.1 man,'' he said.
''I have done some other things with him away from the field to get him focused, just taking advantage of every drill and making every day count."