Warriors lock Elijah Taylor has been given the option to pull out of today's clash with the Panthers, with the 22-year-old still reeling from the death of his father Ron last week.
Taylor, who missed last week's game against the Cowboys due to his father's death from cancer the day before, has been told by under-fire Warriors coach Brian McClennan that if he doesn't feel emotionally ready to play, the team will support his decision not to.
Taylor will decide overnight whether he pulls on the number 13 jumper for the Warriors today, meaning the lock, one of the club's standouts in a dismal year, may force a late change in a game potentially crucial to the future of McClennan.
"Bluey has still given me the option of playing or not," Taylor told Sunday Star-Times.
"I'm going to give him the final yes or no after captain's run [Saturday] to see how I feel. Hopefully my head is a bit better and I'll see how I feel.
"But if I'm not 100%, I won't play because that's selfish towards the boys and not fair for me, to go out there not 100% for the team."
The club rallied around Taylor during the week, with all members of the first-grade squad, and front office staff including chief executive Wayne Scurrah and recruitment boss Dean Bell, attending his father's funeral, held in Auckland suburb Flat Bush, on Monday.
"It was really touching, seeing all the boys there, and my family," Taylor said. "It made me smile for a little while, anyway.
"We're a very tight team here. We're very family orientated. It's probably the toughest thing I've ever been through - and I'm still going through it now. It's a process I understand, and I'm just accepting it at the moment. I'd rather do my ACL six more times than do that," he added.
Taylor's father had been ill since March, with Taylor spending the majority of his free time at his side. From an early stage, the prognosis had been terminal, and the family had been prepared for the unavoidable.
Taylor learnt of the death on arrival in Brisbane on August 10, the day before the Warriors played the Cowboys in Townsville last weekend.
At his dad's bedside that morning, he was told by his father to fly out and play the game; the final words of encouragement in a life spent supporting his son through league, and life.
Along with injured senior player Jerome Ropati, Taylor travelled back to Auckland immediately to be with his family.
Ropati has been a pillar of support for the 22-year-old in the past week, visiting him at his mother's home every day, and providing him with someone to talk to.
Born in Hawera, Taylor grew up in Patea and Kaitaia, and, along with his five brothers, was raised singlehandedly by his father, before moving to live with his mother in Auckland aged 16.
"He will always be in my heart, my old man," Taylor, who associates with the Ngapuhi iwi, said. "When I was growing up, he was always guaranteed on the sideline, watching me play football as a young kid.
"I know he'll always be around, looking after me. But as I said before, if I play [today], I will there to do my job, and do my job for my Warriors, and try and help us get a win."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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