Dynamic lock forwards Elijah Taylor and Greg Bird will battle it out this weekend at Campbelltown Sports Stadium in a must-win clash for both Wests Tigers and the Gold Coast Titans.
Taylor has added an extra element to the Wests Tigers’ attack since joining the Club mid-season, providing another quality ball-playing option for halves Mitchell Moses and the currently injured Luke Brooks.
After languishing in reserve grade at Penrith, the 26-year-old has rejuvenated his NRL career under Coach Jason Taylor and been one of the side’s best performers as they look to secure the Club’s first finals appearance since 2011.
Bird has been a big part of the Gold Coast’s success in 2016, forming part of a diverse forward pack that features the likes of veterans Luke Douglas, David Shillington and Zeb Taia, combined with young guns Agnatius Paasi, Leivaha Pulu and Ryan James.
The West Maitland junior has missed just three games this season for the Titans and has hit a purple-patch of form over the past fortnight, most notably his stellar performance in Round 21 against the Sharks where he made 266 metres and 34 tackles.
While most of the media attention has focused on the likes of Jarryd Hayne, James Tedesco and Mitchell Moses, it’s the quality forward clashes such as this one that will create just as much of an impact.
Campbelltown Sports Stadium will host a classic encounter this weekend, with no fewer than 24 current or former senior representative players named among the two sides.
Look out for a grinding encounter this Saturday, with the extra element of attack from Taylor and Bird a massive boost for both sides as points will be at a premium.
On an NRL level, it’s quite clear that Taylor has the wood over, not only his rival Bird, but the Gold Coast Titans in general.
The former New Zealand International has never lost to the Titans, winning nine from nine games against the Queensland-based Club from his time at the Warriors and Panthers.
Bird has been involved in five of those Gold Coast losses, however when it comes to the International arena, it’s the complete opposite.
Taylor and Bird have met during three test matches between New Zealand and Australia, with the Titans veteran holding a 3-0 advantage from the games in 2012 and 2013.
250 first grade games…
Bird played his 250th first grade game last weekend, with 106 games for Cronulla, 23 games for Catalans in Super League and 121 matches to date for the Titans.
Due to the milestone including Super League matches, his official celebrations will be due to come in his 250th NRL game – however it’s quite an impressive achievement from the former Kangaroos representative.
Tough break for Taylor…
Taylor was unfortunately concussed after just 12 minutes of last weekend’s match against North Queensland and failed the Head Injury Assessment test.
That subsequently ruled him out of the remainder of the match, with Taylor forced to watch on from the sideline as the Wests Tigers secured a stunning win over the defending premiers.
The former Panther has passed the relevant protocols this week and will be raring to go in front of a huge Campbelltown Sports Stadium crowd on Saturday.
What he said…
"As soon as I got here the big focus was on getting our team defence better; we worked really hard at it for the last two months,” Elijah Taylor told NRL.com. "You're starting to see results from that hard work in our wins.
"We kept Parramatta to a low score, we kept Dragons to a low score.
"It's pleasing to know your hard work is paying off somewhere.
"I just think it's our attitude towards our defence and our willingness to help your teammate and doing the little things to help the team.
"As long as we continue that selfless attitude it's put us in really good stead to win games but we have to start over against the Titans," he said.