Taylor's year anguished

By Peter Thorley

It's been a harrowing year for Warriors and Kiwi utility Elijah Taylor and he will be happy to put it all behind him when the 2013 season starts.

The 22-year-old former Kaitaia College student said he was happy with his form last season but the team's results never quite matched their efforts.

However, the biggest loss for Taylor had nothing to do with rugby league.

"Off the field, my season was a sad one as I watched my dad slowly die over the year - that really rattles your mental processes and affects your approach to life, so that was pretty tough for me to deal with," he said.

Taylor spent more hours on the road between his Auckland base and his family home near Owhata than he would have liked, to spend as much time as possible with Ron, before his father died in August.

"It was very hard watching him go and trying to play footy at the same time. Looking back now, when I spent the whole night awake at his bed at the hospital the night before a game, I'm surprised that I even could even function the next day - let alone play."

It was still a successful season for Taylor. He was named Club Player of the Year and made the end-of-year Kiwis team - one of the few Warriors included.

"I think it was recognition of the hard work that I put in off the field, of course on the field I always play with my heart on my sleeve and do everything I can to get that win."

Taylor grew up in Taranaki but his family moved to the Far North to run the family dairy farm in Owhata.

He finished his schooling at St Paul's College in Auckland, which proved a good move. A rugby age-group representative for Taranaki, Northland and Auckland, he started playing league at the school and was recruited to the Warriors' first Toyota Cup side in 2008.

He captained the side the next year, but a serious knee injury stalled his progress into the senior ranks until 2011. He became an immediate success, joining a select number to debut for the Kiwis in their first season of senior football.

The back rower, who also covers standoff and centre, said he hoped the club was about to open a new chapter of success. this year.

The 2012 season had been a tough one for the team - "I don't know many we lost by less than a try but it was a lot. So I think 'frustrating' is the word I'd use to describe it, especially when we played so well in patches but we'd just fall off toward the end of games," he said.

It was something of a relief to have things at the club somehow freshened up with a new coach, trainer, players and ideas.

"It's always exciting and I always look forward to a fresh challenge."

After five weeks of pre-season fitness training at the club, the ball finally had been introduced and new coach Matthew Elliott's ideas were set to be rolled out.

"We've been thrashed on the track and in the pool over the last five weeks and we're just beginning to get into our game strategies and philosophies now," Taylor said.

A lot of new, young players were training with the squad.

"I feel like an old dude when a new U20s player comes up but I'm only a year or two older than most of them, but experience is everything and in many ways I'm still a rookie and trying to learn as much as I can from different players."

Elliott wanted him to talk more on the field and help lead the group, and Taylor said he was more than willing.

- Northern Advocate

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