Kalyn Ponga explains Maroons choice over Kiwis
Ash Taylor has revealed how an inspirational speech by Maroons legend Justin Hodges in Emerging Origin Camp has him pumped to make the most of his talent as he targets a Queensland jersey.
The 22-year-old Gold Coast Titans halfback was one of 11 NRL players in camp on the Gold Coast last weekend where Hodges spoke to the potential Maroons players about his Origin experiences.
Hodges played 24 games and is regarded one of the best centres to have represented Queensland but in his horror Origin debut, two costly mistakes gifted NSW two tries. In his second match for Queensland, he ruptured his ACL.
Taylor said Hodges spoke about rising above early disappointments and that persistence and hard work would pay off in the end for those with the right stuff.
"Just to hear from Justin Hodges got me really excited and made me want it more," Taylor told NRL.com.
"He told us that he was pretty much man of the match for NSW in his first game, and then got injured in the next one and thought it wasn’t meant to be.
"Then he turned it all around and is one of the greats to have worn the Queensland jersey.
"I have had a fair few injuries and surgeries myself and I thought it wasn’t meant to be but like [Hodges] said, if you keep your head down and keep persisting you can be great at this game, and things do pay off in the end."
Newly appointed Maroons assistant coach Josh Hannay said Hodges’s life lessons were powerful for aspiring Queenslanders.
"Justin’s story is a courageous one of how he overcame physical and mental demons to go on and become one of the great centres of the past 20 years," Hannay told NRL.com.
"It is a great story, and there has not been a more passionate Queenslander to wear the jersey.
"I have heard his talks a couple of times with the junior programs I have been involved in through the years and they are really authentic and from the heart.
"It is a wonderful lesson to any young player like Ash who has aspirations to be great in the game."
NRL.com revealed how Taylor had a mentoring session with Socceroos star Tim Cahill recently which made him up the ante in his quest to become an elite half.
Taylor said that Cahill had also impressed him by reiterating the importance of family and positive thinking for professional athletes.
In his autobiography Cahill wrote of how he famously sent the 5000 English pounds from his initial sign-on fee with Millwall to his parents so they could put down a deposit to buy a family home.
"Tim focuses on important off the field stuff by making sure he looks after his family – his brothers, sister and his parents," Taylor said.
"He spoke about how that gives you security and peace of mind while you are playing - to know your family is looked after.
"I learned about how he focuses on games – how he meditates and his preparation with the inspirational videos that he has watched and listened to."
Taylor said he had already implemented some of those techniques by mentally visualising certain plays successfully unfolding in a game.
"Ash is a talented young player in a key position who is trying to make his mark in the game, and he is open to any ways and means to make that happen," Hannay said.
"From my interactions with him he doesn’t lack confidence, not in an arrogant way but with the belief he has in himself.
"He wants to get the most out of himself and he is really dedicated to do whatever he can to fast-track his development and become the best player he can be, as quick as he can."
Taylor has represented Queensland sides through his junior days in rugby league and touch football and was also a member of the Queensland Murri under-16 side.
While he will likely have to bide his time initially before playing for Queensland in the Origin arena, it remains his goal.
"A lot of people have the potential to play Origin, but Origin is a different story and nothing like club footy," Taylor said.