Taylor has 'a long way to go' to emulate his hero JT
When Ash Taylor set himself the goal in the pre-season of becoming the best player in the game like his idol Johnathan Thurston it was always going to be a daunting assignment.
"And I’ve still got a long way to go,” an honest Taylor told NRL.com.
"My form so far hasn’t been the best, not to the best of my ability anyway. I know I can play better."
The Titans halfback seemed to be carrying the burden of four losses on the trot as he spoke at the launch of Indigenous Round in Brisbane on Monday.
Taylor has eight try assists and five line break assists in eight Telstra Premiership appearances this season compared to Thurston's 10 and nine from one more game in each of those key creative indicators.
Four of Taylor's try assists came in the opening round win over Canberra on home soil, but he's had just one in his last four matches.
"I need to be in the game more and we’ve been struggling in defence a bit, so I need to keep putting my body in front of the big boys," the 23-year-old said.
"The last few weeks I’ve only made one or two errors, but they have been critical errors. Last weekend I kicked it out on the full to start the game. I have to take that responsibility."
Taylor and Thurston are playing in teams on six competition points who are yet to fire. The Titans playmaker said Thurston's statistics this year, combined with the way he went about his business, provides plenty of lessons.
"What it shows me is his guts, his consistency and how he can still read the game," Taylor said.
"It just shows his character and that he keeps on trying. He is such a calming influence.
"In a losing team you want to do everything better, so I just need to relax and try not to over perform."
When Taylor played in the Murri under 16s side Thurston presented him with his jersey before the game. It is a moment he will treasure forever and lit a fire in the young star.
"To be representing the Murris and to be presented with our jersey by JT was just unreal," Taylor said.
"I grew up watching him on TV. I guess it is everyone’s dream to want to be the best player in their position. He was the best, and he still is in my eyes.”
For a player with just 55 NRL games to his name, there is considerable pressure on Taylor. Before most games commentators will utter "Taylor is the key" to a Titans win.
"It can be challenging at times and especially when I am not playing my best footy but in saying that it is a 17-man game," he said.
The Titans tackle Melbourne at Suncorp Stadium this Saturday in the Indigenous Round clash which means plenty to Taylor. He grew up in St George and Toowoomba where his parents Randall and Karen bestowed a proud Indigenous heritage upon him.
"I think there is a lot of natural talent in Indigenous players and we are brought up to be tough, but there is still that commitment you’ve got to make to take the next step to the NRL,'' he said.
Taylor and the Titans are aiming to take a step forward against the Storm and replicate the shock win in the corresponding fixture last year.
"A few things went our way in that game and sometimes that is all you need to get your momentum going," Taylor said.