A HUGE WEIGHT OFF HIS CHEST

Slim Ash to reach po­ten­tial

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - Nrl - PAUL CRAW­LEY

IT’S one thing to be la­belled the NRL’s next best player. It is an­other liv­ing up to that huge po­ten­tial.

Un­til now, Ash Tay­lor has ap­peared bur­dened by the ex­pec­ta­tion.

But af­ter drop­ping 7kg over the sum­mer, Gold Coast coach Garth Bren­nan has chal­lenged his gun No.7 to grab hold of his own destiny this year.

This time last year it was Matty Johns who de­clared “it is just a mat­ter of time” be­fore Tay­lor took the ti­tle as the game’s best player.

But 12 months on and Bren­nan con­ceded the ca­reer of the prodi­gious play­maker was at the cross­roads.

Tay­lor turns 24 on March 17, the same day Gold Coast kick off their sea­son against Canberra.

And Bren­nan said ev­ery in­di­ca­tion was that Tay­lor was set for his big­gest sea­son.

“Hope­fully. Ev­ery­one has been wait­ing for it, haven’t we?” Bren­nan said.

“At least he has got him­self in the best shape. He has given him­self ev­ery chance to get him­self right.

“He is the lightest he has been for a long time. He is down to 87kg.

“I think he played be­tween 92kg to 94kg last year. It was too heavy and he knew that.”

Tay­lor (pic­tured) was forced to with­draw from this week’s All Stars game in Mel­bourne af­ter a re­cent shoul­der clean-out to en­sure he is ready to start the sea­son.

Bren­nan aims to play Tay­lor in the trial against Bris­bane on March 2. “In Novem­ber we were do­ing some wrestling and he landed awk­wardly on it,” Bren­nan said. “We had it scanned and there was no real dam­age to the shoul­der, there was just a bit of im­pinge­ment go­ing on. It just hadn’t come good. So I said to the doc­tor: ‘look, what are our op­tions?’ “He said we ei­ther go along the way we are go­ing, and nee­dle it and try and get it right and even­tu­ally it might come good through­out the sea­son, or we op­er­ate. “Ash was a bit dis­ap­pointed about miss­ing the All Stars but he un­der­stands that he can’t go car­ry­ing a shoul­der through the whole year. “Oth­er­wise, that is not go­ing to help him get to his ul­ti­mate goal of play­ing semi­fi­nal foot­ball for the Ti­tans and also play­ing for Queens­land Ori­gin. “You are not go­ing to do that with a bung shoul­der.” Bren­nan also be­lieves the ar­rival of Mal Meninga as the Ti­tans’ head of per­for­mance and cul­ture can only ben­e­fit Tay­lor’s de­vel­op­ment. Meninga is not the type to hold back from hav­ing a tough con­ver­sa­tion, even with the great­est of play­ers. It’s leg­endary that in 2006 he told Dar­ren Lock­yer, Petero Civon­iceva and Steve Price they were on their last chance for Queens­land. It was that con­ver­sa­tion that in­spired the start of the Ma­roons’ all-con­quer­ing dy­nasty. Many believe if Tay­lor lives up his po­ten­tial he could own the Queens­land and Aus­tralian No.7 jumpers for years to come.

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