Rake’s progress: Elijah Taylor is in top form. Photo: Stuart WalmsleyGive it a couple of weeks, and everything can change in team sport. Criticised losers can turn into 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.
On Sunday they will take on the Roosters at Allianz Stadium feeling full of confidence with three straight wins in the bag. Talk about regeneration.
A player’s fortunes can change just as easily as that of his team.
Perhaps no one on the Warriors side understands this more than Elijah Taylor.
After an unsuccessful experiment at hooker for the season’s first three games, Taylor found himself cast to the bench as the Warriors’ season careened from disaster to disaster.
Then hard-working lock Todd Lowrie was injured – providing Taylor, who leaves the Warriors for the Panthers at the end of the season, an opportunity to start.
He has not disappointed, and the Warriors have not lost since he began wearing the No.13 guernsey this season.
Taylor has been a rock in defence – his 130 tackles in the past three weeks trail only Nathan Friend’s tally for the club – while providing a slick attacking service in the middle of the park.
His form has been so impressive Fairfax Media understands Taylor was approached by several high-profile members of the Warriors front office, including Elliott, asking him to reconsider his departure. Yet with a three-year Panthers deal already signed, it was too late.
The four-Test back-rower admits he has been feeling far better now he is starting games – but in true Taylor fashion, deflects talk about himself to the team.
”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 … I’m really happy with how the team’s been playing. Our props have been outstanding … the style of footy we have been playing has been effective.”
Last Sunday’s 18-16 victory over the Sea Eagles in Auckland was a test of character for the Warriors – ”a game we would have lost a month ago”, according to Taylor – but the Roosters match on Sunday will be another big test. The Sydney side is now third on the NRL table.
”They’re similar to Manly, in terms of their physicality in that forward pack,” the 23-year-old Taylor said. ”Again, we need to turn up to the ground with the right attitude. A hard-working attitude in defence, and everybody doing their roles.”
Taylor said the lengthy absence of Kiwi enforcer Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, who is serving a seven-week ban for a reckless high tackle, was a blow for the Sydney glamour club.
”Whenever Ben Matulino smashes someone in a tackle, it lifts everyone in our team. We all get a energy high out of it. Jared is the same with the Roosters … but whoever they bring in for him, they’ll do just as a good a job.”
As for Taylor, do not expect the pedal to come off the accelerator. Yes, he is to leave the Warriors, but it is not in Taylor’s nature to change his approach.
”Every week, I’m trying to improve my performance – and the team’s performance,” he said.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.