‘Weight off my shoulders’: Taylor chasing NRL revival after ditching $1m burden
January 2, 2022
Ash Taylor has thrown off the ever-so-heavy weights of his reported $1 million deal with the Gold Coast Titans, instead going back to basics with the Warriors heading into the 2022 season on a cheap-change train-and-trial contract — and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Taylor admits he wasn’t quite ready for a multimillion-dollar pay packet, or more specifically the expectations it bring inside and outside the club, as he prepares to fight tooth and nail for his NRL future.
The 26-year-old has inked a train-and-trial deal with the Warriors for next year.
It’s a far cry from the million-dollar a season he was pulling in at the Titans, which he drew up with the Gold Coast club in 2018. By the end of that same deal, however, Taylor found himself barely playing footy, and dreading having to lace up his boots for regular-season NRL games, knowing every eye would be on him win, lose, or anything in between.
The short-change deal he’s agreed to play on with the Warriors — currently still based on the Aussie mainland due to COVID travel restrictions — is exactly the kind of chance he needs to “save” his playing career, the halfback concedes.
“You can always come up with excuses as to why you didn’t want the contract but you know, I thought I was ready for it, obviously I wasn’t … so life goes on,” Taylor said. “I can’t stay stuck in the mud. I want to keep moving forward in life. I want to put my best foot forward and hopefully earn a contract here.
“Obviously it’s a step backwards for where I was,” he added, “but I’m looking for a new challenge.”
The train and trial contract may have dialled down the heat on the 26-year-old outside the club, but inside his own head the desire to prove himself, and earn a place in the Warriors top 30 in 2022, still burns bright.
“Well coming off a big contract, it was a weight lifted off my shoulder,” Taylor said.
“But I want to work hard for it, show my gratitude [to the Warriors], and really want to play in the NRL,” the former Titans star added. “At the end of the day, I feel pressure on myself to earn a contract.”
Taylor first exploded onto the NRL scene in 2016, dominating proceedings on the field for the Titans, and cleaning up the Rookie of the Year award at the rugby league competition’s year-end plaudits show.
Things spiralled in 2019, however, and the star was forced to take a break.
He never truly recovered, and although he clocked up 114 games on the Gold Coast, his rocky three years under the weight of the $3 million deal left lasting damage for his image in the game, as well as his standing at the club. He decided to leave, taking up the Warriors offer, and now faces a battle with Chanel Harris-Tavita for the number six jersey.
Taylor originally played halfback for the Titans, but the Kiwi club has reunited with starting no.7 and past star Shaun Johnson in the offseason, leaving Taylor and Harris-Tavita in the mix to partner the returning 31-year-old in the club’s opening game.
“Shaun enjoys leading the team and I have taken a step back into the six role,” Taylor said. “I’m sure we’ll complement each other if I get a contract, but at the moment it’s about working hard to earn that.”