Taylor's resurgence mirrors that of Warriors

BEN STANLEY
Last updated 05:00 16/06/2013
Elijah Taylor
JASON OXENHAM/Fairfax NZ
TOP FORM: Elijah Taylor has starred as the Warriors have turned their season around with three straight wins.

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Give it a couple of weeks, and everything can change in team sport. Criticised losers can turn confident winners. Title challengers can turn into teams in free-fall.

Just ask the Warriors. A mere month ago, New Zealand's first-grade side looked orphaned at the toe-end of the NRL table, with just two wins in their first 10 outings.

Today, they'll take on a Roosters side at Allianz Stadium in Sydney full of confidence with three straight wins in the bag. Talk about regeneration.

The fortunes of a player can change just as easily as that of his team. Perhaps no one on the Warriors side understands this more than Elijah Taylor at the moment.

After an unsuccessful experiment at hooker for the season's first three games, Taylor saw himself cast to the bench as the Warriors season careened from disaster to disaster.

Hard-working lock Todd Lowrie got injured - providing Taylor, who leaves the Warriors for the Panthers at season's end, an opportunity to start. He hasn't disappointed, and the Warriors haven't lost with him wearing the No 13 guernsey this season.

Taylor has been a rock on defence - his 130 tackles in the last three weeks trail only Nathan Friend for the club - while providing a slick, attacking service in the middle of the park for coach Matt Elliott's side.

His form has been so impressive the Sunday Star-Times understands he was approached by high-profile members of the Warriors front office, including Elliott, asking him to re-consider leaving.

Yet with a three-year deal inked with the Panthers, it was very much a case of trying to shut the stable door well after the horse had bolted.

The four-test back rower admits he has been feeling far better about starting over recent weeks - but in true Taylor fashion, deflects talk about himself to how well the team in large has been going.

"I feel better starting, physically," he said. "Coming off the bench, I always feel like I have to chase the game, or catch up to the game.

"Physically I feel better - but I'm really happy with how the team's been playing. Our props have been outstanding; Feleti Mateo has been firing."

Last week's 18-16 victory over the Sea Eagles in Auckland was a true character victory for the Warriors - "a game we would have lost a month ago" according to Taylor - but the Roosters match tonight, who currently sit third on the NRL table, will be another big test.

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And Taylor, won't be easing up. Yes, he's off next year, but it's not in Taylor's nature to change how he approaches the game.

"It's all about week-to-week footy," he said. "Preparing well, getting better. Every week, I'm trying to improve my performance and the team's performance. That's all I'm focusing on.'

"I've got some brothers for life here, I came through the grade with them. I'll miss them - but we've all got to make decisions in life."

- Sunday Star Times

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