NRL: Taylor struggling to cope with loss of his dad and coach

By Michael Brown

Elijah Taylor has been experiencing life's ups and downs. Photo / APN
Elijah Taylor has been experiencing life's ups and downs. Photo / APN

The events of the past few weeks have been difficult for most associated with the Warriors but few have struggled as much as Elijah Taylor.

The 22-year-old has lost two things close to him - his dad and his coach - and is still coming to terms with both.

"The last two weeks have probably been the lowest of my life, losing my own old man and then a week later my coach," he says. "It's put life in perspective. You just can't take anything for granted, not in life and not in this game because it can be taken away just like that. That's what I have learned."

Taylor has discovered a lot in his short career, both on and off the field. The impressive youngster talks with a maturity and honesty beyond his years and amazed some of his teammates when he played against Penrith last weekend only a week after the passing of his father after a long battle with cancer.

He was close to his father, who raised Taylor and his three brothers on his own.

Life was hard, and at one time the family lived in a car, but it seemed to only strengthen their bond and strengthen Taylor (before every game he writes a message on his wrist about where he has come from and what he has achieved).

One of the last things his father said to him from hospital was to travel to Townsville to play against the Cowboys a fortnight ago despite his ailing health. Ron had died by the time Taylor touched down in Australia.

"It's been really tough," he says. "I still have a lot of moments before I go to sleep when I think about my dad and what's gone down. My dad was really supportive of whatever I did. He raised me and my brothers by himself and that's a tough thing to do working on a dairy farm. I have a lot of great memories and I'm fortunate he really cared about what I did and supported me because not everyone has that privilege. Some kids don't even get to see their dads.

"I had a really awesome relationship with my dad. The last year has been pretty tough going in and out of hospital and taking on the fight of cancer together. We lost in the end, but I have some good memories along the way. I am still pretty rattled and it's going to take me a while to get over it.

"I felt helpless a lot of times in the hospital because I couldn't do anything other than hold his hand and support him. I'm glad it's over now because he was in a lot of pain."

The Warriors' season has been agonising on so many different levels but Taylor was often thankful for the distraction. It's why he returned to playing so quickly and last weekend he made another 39 tackles in a typically honest 80-minute performance.

That 18-16 defeat to the Panthers, the sixth in a row, ultimately cost coach Brian McClennan his job and it was a decision Taylor took badly. He liked and respected his former coach and was shocked when told McClennan had been sacked.

Like a number of players, he felt guilty, wondered what more he could have done. Like others, he wondered what more some teammates might have been able to do.

The players have faced criticism for letting McClennan down through their lack of effort over the last six weeks and the nadir was the 52-12 defeat to the Cowboys which Taylor missed after returning to New Zealand following his father's death.

"I have seen myself where the effort has been," he says. "Just watching the Cowboys game, it was like, 'have the boys even turned up to play or what?' But last week [against the Panthers] the effort was there.

He has had some influence over the team's results over the past 12 months and he's seen the highs and lows of the game in a short space of time.

"I'm glad it's happened early in my career - the high and the lows," he says. "I think it's going to hold me in good stead for my future."

There are some things, however, Taylor might have hoped to experience much later in life.

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 24 Oct 2014 03:41:34 Processing Time: 334ms