Blackhawks recruit Taylor Welch talks to the media.
QRL correspondent MIKE SIMPSON chats one on one with Townsville's American recruit Taylor Welch.
Q. Firstly congratulations on your recent signing with the Blackhawks. Can you tell me a bit about your background and how did the move to Townsville come about?
A. I was born In Dallas Texas but was raised in Warrington in the UK. I played rugby union in my junior years, but was spotted at a county schools carnival in the UK and made the switch to league. My signing for the Blackhawks came about from Terry Matterson who I knew as coach of the American rugby league national side. He got wind of a new side coming into the Intrust Super Cup and basically recommended me to the club.
Q. As a born and bred American, how surreal is it to be playing in one of the toughest Rugby League competitions in the world?
A. Very surreal. I think from our success in the recent World Cup, a lot more people took notice of how serious Americans are in playing rugby league. I have heard good things about the competiton from other Intrust Super Cup players who I played with for the Tomahawks. For me personally though, it is about the challenge that lies ahead.
Q. You came through the ranks with one of the UK Super League’s powerful clubs in the Warrington Wolves, how did your time there help your transition into rugby league considering you come from a rugby union background?
A. It was massive playing for Warrington. The coach Paul Cullen was unbelievable. I learned so much from him. The set up was amazing, it was so professional and the supporters are fanatical. I also played with some quality players who would make time after training to do some one on one coaching with me like Matt King and Henry Fa’afili who played with the Warriors.
Q. The Blackhawks are the new kids on the block, how important is this for rugby league in North Queensland?
A. Massive. The whole place is buzzing with excitement up here that the Townsville fans have another team to support other than the Cowboys. I see it as an important step for the junior rugby league up here as well. It will give local juniors a chance to stay in Townsville to play with the Blackhawks.
Q. Not many Americans have played rugby league in Australia and in particular the Intrust Super Cup, do you think you will be the catalyst that sees other players from the USA to ply their trade over here?
A. I think so. I just don’t think a lot of players back themselves to come over and play in Australia. Some of the players in the US have definitely got the physique, stamina and athleticism to succeed, I think it comes down to lack of confidence. I wanted to test myself and give it a real shot. Having played for America and for Warrington, I believe I have gained valuable experience to make a real go of it. We have a great set up at the Blackhawks and our trainers and coaching staff are some of the best I have been involved with.
Q. You have played with some household names from the NRL in Matt King, Matt Petersen and Clint Newton, how have these players helped your career?
A. Immensely. I can’t praise them enough. They are all down to earth blokes and always helping me fine tune my league skills. Playing outside of Matt King at Warrington was unbelievable and both Newts and Sideshow Bob Petersen were so knowledgeable when I played with them for the Tomahawks.
Q. Having been selected for the American Tomahawks national side, how big a thrill was it to pull on the stars and stripes jersey?
A. Amazing! When the national anthem played, it was hard not to get emotional. All my hard work had paid off as I finally got to play for my country of birth. Playing for your country is the epitome of a rugby league player and something I was and will always be proud of.
Q. It appears your signing for the Blackhawks is a permanent one, having also been handed a job with EMU sportswear. Do you have aspirations of playing NRL and in particular the Cowboys?
A. I hope it is permanent! I love Townsville and plan to give it my best mate. Hopefully I impress the Blackhawks enough in my first season that I will become a regular first grader. I definitely have aspirations playing for the Cowboys. It is every players’ dream of playing in the best competition in the world and just maybe I might get the chance to pull on the Cowboys jersey at some stage. Never say never!
Q. In your opinion, how successful can the Blackhawks be in 2015 and beyond, considering the Northern Pride are the benchmark team in the competition?
A. I think we will surprise a few people. I know the Pride are the benchmark side in the Intrust Super Cup, they were simply outstanding all season, but we are training well and have a brilliant set up so I only see positive things ahead for the club.
Q. The Blackhawks have made some quality signings in Ricky Thorby and Tom Humble, do you think you have the arsenal to match it with the big guns?
A. I believe so. I think the Blackhawks have signed some really good players. Thorby is a quality player and Tom Humble has also played NRL. We have an awesome coach in Kristian Woolf who has coached at the Cowboys Under 20 and was an assistant coach at the Broncos, so that experience is crucial for the club.
Q. The PNG Head Hunters fairytale 2014 season was nothing short of brilliant, do you think the Blackhawks can produce the same results if not better?
A. What PNG achieved in their first season was simply brilliant. They were so hard to beat at home and just missed out on the finals so that was a massive shot of confidence for them. As for the Blackhawks, we are going to go in and give it our all. We don’t want to be a pushover, however a good pre-season is what we need and with the Townsville people behind us especially at our home games, I think we will give it our best shot for sure.