Elijah Taylor is proving to be one of the most astute signings of the NRL’s 2014 season by Penrith coach Ivan Cleary.
The 24-year-old New Zealand international has been outstanding for the Panthers since switching from the Warriors to join former coach Cleary, and aims to put two difficult years behind him.
A junior rugby player of some note until he was 16, Taylor opted for league after moving to school in Auckland, where he was quickly snapped up by the Warriors – the club he never imagined he’d ever leave.
“Ivan being here was one of many factors in why I came to Penrith and I always kept in touch with him after he left the Warriors,” the lock-forward told AAP.
“The leadership, Phil Gould, the plans they have in place and the history of the club were also very important in my decision.
“The slogan we have here is ‘Respect the past but look to the future’, and I like what that stands for.”
Taylor is articulate and not afraid to speak his mind – as demonstrated when he laid into former teammates after the 2012 season ended with eight straight losses, a year after the side reached the grand final.
Taylor said assistant coach Tony Iro should be given the job ahead of Matt Elliott, prompting rumours of a mutiny among the players when the former Penrith and Canberra mentor was appointed.
Off contract at the end of 2013, Elliott insisted Taylor had to sort out his future before the start of the new season if he wanted to play.
And when nothing of significance was offered to him by the Warriors, he jumped at the chance to work under former boss Cleary at Penrith, and was then dumped to the bench by Elliott until round 10.
Taylor’s new club are off to a good start, winning their season opener against Newcastle and then going down by a single point in a thrilling clash with Melbourne on Saturday.
The Warriors, in comparison, have struggled and now face a trip to North Queensland on Saturday looking to prevent a third successive loss and ease the pressure on Elliott.
“The past is the past and they’ve moved on and so have I,” Taylor said.
“I had a lot of friends at the Warriors who will be for life.”