A HUGE WEIGHT OFF HIS CHEST
Slim Ash to reach potential
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.