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Taylor aiming to convert hundred into massive total

If there's anyone who deserves to reach 100 NRL games, it's Ash Taylor.

"It means a lot. I came into the game as bright-eyed 20-year-old looking to play my first and now I'm at 100," Taylor told as he zeroes in on that milestone in round one against the Warriors in Gosford next Saturday.

"It's taken me a bit longer than others but I'm just very grateful I got here and got that opportunity back then to play NRL.

"Now I think I'm starting to play the best I have been over the past few years.

"I just really want to work to stay that way. One hundred games means nothing if you don't keep your standards up.

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"It's a massive milestone but I really want to go on with it and have a solid, injury-free career."

The Titans playmaker has been through quite a lot in his six seasons.

A burden to live up to grand expectations thrust upon him at an early age has been intertwined with injuries, inconsistent form, a loss of confidence and having to look inside himself to admit he had some mental health problems to address.

"I've ridden plenty of rollercoasters. It's been a tough career so far personally for myself but it's also been very fun. I've made great friendships over the years."

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As he prepares to enter his seventh season in the Telstra Premiership, his outlook is much brighter. He turns 26 later this month and feels he's made it over the crest of some big waves.

"Hopefully the wave I ride now will be a much smoother one. Obviously I've got my little fella there [Oscar] to keep me grounded and another one on the way. I'm just looking after myself off the field and hopefully that shows up on the field."

A new coach, a newfound love for the game, and a new role as a father combined last year to give him a pretty good 2020 considering the pandemic circumstances.

Taylor rattled off 13 try assists, scored three of his own, alongside 13 line break assists - showing he's the kind of playmaker his teammates love running off into the backfield.

"It was a good year but it doesn't amount to that much because we didn't make the finals," Taylor said.

Stil, the Titans rattled off six wins in a row to finish off the season and just miss the top eight in ninth. The maiden NRL season of coach Justin Holbrook not only brought some immediate changes of fortunes, if brings the promise of far more in 2021.

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"We've recruited well and we've spoken about that but there's a lot of hard work to come despite the great additions to our team," Taylor said, of new faces like Broncos star David Fifita, Storm forward Tino Fa'asuamaleaui, Warriors utility back Patrick Herbert and Knights prop Herman Ese'ese.

"If the rest of us don't stand up then those players don't shine. The rest of us need to step up to their level and get those combinations rolling and if we do that, then we'll be there at the end of the year."

Another key ingredient is Holbrook. After having four coaches in his first four years with the Titans, he welcomed Holbrook's calm and steady influence, and he'll be around for some time too having signed until 2024. 

Ash Taylor warms up at Lismore before the trial against the Warriors.
Ash Taylor warms up at Lismore before the trial against the Warriors. ©

"He's just upfront. He knows what he wants and knows how to get it," Taylor said. "Working hard is his philosophy. It doesn't matter what happens on the field as long as you keep working hard and try to grind the game out.

"Justin also allows us to play what's in front of us. Over the last few years we've been trying to be a bit like a show pony in games trying to win by doing flash things.

"Justin wants us to knuckle down and win those 6-0, 6-4 games. He doesn't want us always thinking of points, but being gritty and winning the tough games."

What will be the result in this Telstra Premiership clash?

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