Elijah Taylor hopes to profit from Panthers move

DAVID LONG IN LONDON
Last updated 05:00 01/12/2013
Warriors, Panthers
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TOUCH DOWN: Elijah Taylor scores for the Warriors.

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Elijah Taylor has revealed that midway through last season the Warriors asked him to pull out of his contract with the Panthers and stay with the club for another season.

Taylor was in the last year of his four-year deal in 2013 and before the season got underway Warriors coach Matt Elliott gave Taylor and his agent, Ian Miles, a deadline of March 8 to accept a new offer from the club.

A day before that date, Taylor agreed terms with the Panthers, to team up with his old coach, Ivan Cleary, once again.

All seemed to be cut and dried, with Taylor wanting to give his all for the club in his final year, while Elliott moved on to canvas his back-row options elsewhere.

For the first part of the season, Taylor filled in at hooker while Nathan Friend recovered from an operation to repair a nerve in his shoulder.

When Friend came back, Taylor initially slipped into a role on the interchange, but as he hit good form, he soon became a regular in the starting team.

So impressed were the Warriors management with Taylor, they asked him to stay on at the club.

However, with a Panthers contract signed, Taylor felt it would severely damage his reputation in the NRL if he backed out of his deal.

"They did come to me and ask if I wanted to stay on," Taylor confirmed.

"But if I did stay on, my name would be rubbish in Australia because I'd turned my back on a deal.

"These days, you can't afford to ruin your reputation like that. I made the deal with Penrith and I'm a man of my word, so I couldn't go back on what I'd agreed."

It seemed something of an unusual decision from Elliott to give Taylor a deadline of March 8 to agree to a new contract, as at that stage the incoming coach hadn't worked with the former Junior Warriors star in any NRL games.

However, Taylor says he doesn't have a problem with the ultimatum the Warriors gave him.

"The line was drawn in the sand early, so it gave the Warriors an opportunity to look for a replacement," he said.

"Also, on my part, I knew exactly what I was doing, so all I had to focus on was my footy. If we'd let it carry on through the year, people would have started to ask questions about what I was doing and it would just have built up."

Taylor, who was down to play at lock in this morning's World Cup final, said up until coming into camp with the Kiwis it had been a mixed season for him.

"It has been a tough year, there were a lot of ups and downs," he said. "Having started most of the games in 2012 and then playing hooker at the start of the year.

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"We had a tough start to the season and then we got walloped by Penrith (62-6).

"I finally got my 13 jersey and was able to play my proper position. Then we got on a roll but fell short at the end.

"It was a typical Warriors season I suppose, up and down. But you learn from it all, you learn from the mistakes and the achievements.

"Also, there was a bit more emotion towards the end of the year, with it being my last at the Warriors.

"But although it was emotional, I never tried to show it or tell anyone about it, but inside I was thinking things like this was going to be one of my last away trips or my last home game.

"I wasn't really expecting to be chosen for the Kiwis squad because there are so many good players who didn't come, like Adam Blair for example.

"I don't think I'd be here if Jeremy Smith didn't stay back for his wife, for family reasons."

With the World Cup over, Taylor will take a short break before getting into training at the Panthers.

He regards the move as the beginning of a new chapter in his life and says it will be like starting all over again.

"It's going to be a massive challenge," he said. "The first thing I want to do when I get there is earn respect. I have to work for that, I have to train hard and it feels like I've got to start again.

"It is going to be a huge challenge, because I know there will be a lot of players at Penrith who will be wondering who this Warriors guy who's come over here is?

"So I'll be there training my butt off, trying to claim a position and represent the Panthers as best I can."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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