Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Rugby: Taylor may test union waters

Elijah Taylor is considering a switch to rugby union - as he looks at all possible future options - in the midst of a difficult time at Penrith. Photo / Getty Images
Elijah Taylor is considering a switch to rugby union - as he looks at all possible future options - in the midst of a difficult time at Penrith. Photo / Getty Images

Elijah Taylor is considering a switch to rugby union - as he looks at all possible future options - in the midst of a difficult time at Penrith.

The former Warriors and Kiwis forward has been on the outer at the Panthers this season, consigned almost exclusively to reserve grade.

Taylor has made just two interchange NRL appearances in 2016, for a total of 58 minutes on the field.

The utility forward is prepared to bide his time, but there must be a limit. It's understood at least two clubs are interested in a mid-season transfer, while up to four NRL teams (including three in Sydney) have asked about 2017. The Warriors would be interested but don't have room under their salary cap.

Rugby is also a option. Taylor played the 15-man code until he was 16 (representing Auckland) and it's believed there has been dialogue with at least one New Zealand Super Rugby franchise.

The 2016 NRL season has been a considerable step down for the 10 test Kiwi.

In his previous three years at Penrith he averaged more than 20 games a year, and 66 minutes a match, despite having injury disrupted seasons in 2014 (anterior cruciate ligament) and 2015 (broken hand).

This year he has almost disappeared off the radar.

League is a game of opinions, but it is difficult to understand how Taylor's standing has fallen so far under new coach Anthony Griffin. During Ivan Cleary's time he was earmarked as a future leader, and he captained the team several times last season. He made more than 70 tackles against the Cowboys last year, making more than 40 tackles a match across the season. Taylor also has utility value, able to play everywhere in the pack except prop and can also fill in at centre.

"He is the kind of player that we are trying to build our club around," Panthers CEO Phil Gould told the Herald on Sunday in 2013. "Ivan Cleary indicated his potential leadership qualities, while his football talents are obvious. We want players who have their best football in front of them, are self-starters, have leadership qualities and are self-motivated; Elijah easily fits into that category."

The last 12 months have brought considerable change at Penrith. As well as Cleary's departure, former CEO of the football department Justin Pascoe joined the Tigers. And in Feburary Panthers Group boss Warren Wilson, who had been credited with the club's financial turnaround, resigned suddenly, citing "personal reasons.

Taylor's plight won't help his Kiwis chances. The former regular squad member has not played since the 2013 World Cup final. That is partly due to injuries and form, and the emergence of a golden generation of Kiwi backrow talent, including Kevin Proctor, Tohu Harris and Jason Taumalolo.

- Herald on Sunday

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 30 Sep 2016 02:57:38 Processing Time: 575ms