Biggest loss a personal one

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 gets under way.

The 22-year-old former Kaitaia College student said he was happy with his form on the field 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 time on the road between his Auckland base and his family home near Owhata than he would have liked, to spend as much time with Ron, before his father finally 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," he said.

It was still a successful season for Taylor. He was named as the Club Player of the Year and was also named in the Kiwis team at the end of the year - one of the few Warriors to make the team.

"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," he said.

Taylor grew up in Taranaki but his family later 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 turned out to be a good move. A rugby union age group representative for Taranaki, Northland and Auckland, he started playing rugby league at the school and was recruited to play in the Warriors' first ever Toyota Cup side in 2008.

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

The back rower, who also covers standoff and centre, said he is hoping that the club will open up a new chapter of success this year.

"2012 was a very tough season for us as a 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 is something of a relief for him to have everything at the club somehow freshened up with a new coach, new trainer, new players and new ideas.

After five weeks of pre-season fitness training at the club, the ball has finally been introduced and new coach Matthew Elliott's ideas for the team are set to be rolled out in the weeks ahead.

"New coach, fresh ideas, fresh game plans. It's always exciting and I always look forward to a fresh challenge.

"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," he said.

He said there are a lot of young new players 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," he said.

He has been asked by Elliott to talk more and help lead the group and he is more than willing to do that ahead of what is going to be an intriguing season for the New Zealand NRL club.

- Northland Age

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