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Ash Taylor helping Brothers ‘get back where they need to be’

Toowoomba Brothers’ favourite son Ash Taylor thought he was done.

But an opportunistic return to the field in the Toowoomba Rugby League A grade last year made him realise he had plenty more to give on the field – as much as his weathered body will let him – and off it.

A season honing his skills passing on his knowledge at Newtown Lions will now pay dividends at Brothers in 2024, the club where he kickstarted his journey to the NRL from under 10s after leaving outback St George.

“I’m excited to get back to help Brothers and hopefully help get them back where they need to be,” Taylor said.

“Once you step away from the game you don’t realise how much you miss it when you’re retired, so it’s awesome to be back on the field.

“Obviously the body is still wounded, but to be able to pass my knowledge on to the younger blokes coming through, especially the 19s, it will mean a lot to them.

“It’s awesome to be back on the field for now and we’re just going to take it week by week to see how the body pulls up.

“I didn’t really invest too much in my body because I just thought I was done, so I’m hanging in at the moment, but the body feels good... at a level I can handle local league and just enjoy myself really. That’s the whole point of it.”

The return of the 116-gamer with the Gold Coast Titans, Brisbane Broncos and New Zealand Warriors is just a small part of a renewed drive for the club to be competitive and shore up their pathways from junior grades after a lean few years.

Incoming president John Butler, who played with Taylor’s father back in the day, said he was thankful to the previous committee for keeping the club going, but hoped a new vision could help set up the future.

Butler thought he could make a difference and a raft of volunteers on the committee and in other roles have worked on building engagement with the junior club and the Old Boys and their connections, helping drive crucial sponsorship to provide a pathway for young players.

“I just saw the club struggling on the field. It’s a very proud club when you’ve had Jonathan Thurston, Wayne Bennett, Peter 'Mick' Madsen, Elton Rasmussen… a lot of internationals who played for the club or are from the club,” he said.

“That’s why I wanted to get involved. I was given an opportunity when I went there. They wanted me to come and play for them. I just wanted an opportunity, I didn’t want anything, and they looked after me really well."

Butler said his revered father Bob, a life member of Toowoomba Valleys, taught him the key to success at any club was strong juniors. One initiative the club has launched, thanks to new sponsorship, to cover registration and equipment costs of those boys and girls coming into under 19s.

“When you’ve got 380 juniors, you’ve got to look after the juniors, and that’s probably a reflection of my father, who was big on juniors and bringing them through wherever he was, so it’s all about the future, and that’s something I’m really passionate about driving in the club," Butler said.

And Taylor’s approach to coaching, and the early signs in two winning trials, has blown away everyone at the club.

“His training and structural techniques at training are unbelievable. You’ve got no idea,” Butler said.

“The young kids, the 17-20 year-olds are stargazing. They’re saying: ‘I’m running lines for Ash Taylor’.

“It’s just really good to see and it’s just worth going to watch him training with his knowledge and ability.

“I get goosebumps just talking about it. You just can’t get blokes like that.”

Taylor said it was his mission, leaning on the likes of assistant coach Scott Schultz, conditioning coach Zac Rub and supporting the volunteers doing the grunt work, to impart some wisdom on every individual throughout the year.

“There’s a lot of things that go on behind the scenes that you don’t really see at the top, so it’s a massive eye-opener and I’m obviously very grateful for a club like Brothers to help me get back to being happy playing footy and wanting to help,” he said.

“There’s a lot of boys there that just want guidance on their rugby league career, whether it’s playing local league, Hostplus Cup or NRL and as long as it’s a stepping stone, not a backward step for them, if we can do that as a club, we’re doing more than expected.

“We’re also trying to grow these men into leaders of our club in the future, so we want to lead them in the right direction while the older boys are still around.”

It’s just the start of the journey back to the top and both Taylor and Butler are realistic about what could be a multi-year process to contend again.

“I think we’re just going to take it week by week,” Taylor said. “Obviously we want to win footy games but as long as we’re getting better as a team week in week out, I think we can be happy.”

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Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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