ET not ready to phone home
Wests Tigers lock Elijah Taylor has denied rumours he wants out of the club at the end of the season to return home to New Zealand due to homesickness.
There was speculation in the past fortnight the 27-year-old would knock back an option for another season with the joint venture and head home to join the Warriors in 2018.
Taylor has been a shining light for the Wests Tigers since joining the club from Penrith in 2016, averaging more than 41 tackles per game and enhancing his ability in attack under former coach Jason Taylor.
Speaking to NRL.com prior to the side's first bye week, Taylor set the record straight on his immediate and long-term future.
"The homesick story… I don't know where that came from," Taylor told NRL.com.
"I signed with the Tigers for this year and next year was an option season so I need to take that up by Round 13.
"I'm encouraged by what we're doing here and the new direction with Ivan [Cleary] and the players he's recruiting so my future is something we're working on now."
Should Taylor not take up the option to remain at the Wests Tigers by the end of the week, it wouldn't mean he would be lost to the club next season, but rather enter negotiations to chase a longer-term deal beyond 2018.
"It's a big decision. I'm getting older in my career and it might be my last contract I sign so it has to be a smart and wise decision," Taylor said.
"I'm going to take my time with it."
In the Wests Tigers' favour is the immediate impact coach Ivan Cleary has had on the club off-field in a short space of time.
With the announcements star players James Tedesco and Aaron Woods would depart at the end of the season, Cleary managed to recruit a trio of current and former representative players in Bulldogs five-eighth Josh Reynolds, Warriors prop Ben Matulino and Dragons forward Russell Packer in quick succession.
Gold Coast Titans back-rower Chris McQueen had already agreed to join the club prior to the coaching appointment of Cleary.
"The signing of Ivan is definitely going to play a part in my decisions, he gave me my debut at the Warriors before bringing me to Penrith and is a great coach," Taylor said.
"You definitely notice a change at the club now, the attitude and training is different and has picked up.
"Ivan's copped a bit of flak for the decisions he is making but he made them at Penrith as well and at the time went one win away from a grand final.
"The decisions on Teddy (James Tedesco) and Woodsy (Aaron Woods) are big calls but he's obviously doing what's best for the club and trying to change how we are off the field."
Taylor also endorsed Cleary's decision to sign former Warriors teammate Packer, who he said has come full circle both as a player and person.
Called into the Kiwis squad as a cover player earlier in May for the Anzac Test, the Otahuhu junior reunited with Packer in camp for the first time in four years and will line up against the Dragons prop on Saturday afternoon.
"I take a bit of inspiration from Russell's comeback story, I think it's special," he said.
"I went and saw him in jail a couple of times and to where he is now back playing for the Kiwis and one of the best forwards in the game this year – it is inspiring.
"Off the field is probably the most important thing.
"They're (Packer and Matulino) both really good blokes and having those players come over and the culture Ivan is trying to develop here is probably just as important for on the field."
Most of the talk regarding the departures of Tedesco, Woods and Mitchell Moses came down to what was happening behind the scenes at the embattled club and Taylor said while he doesn't pay too much attention to the two-board set-up, it was important the off-field distractions were limited moving forward.
"If we get off the field right then we all know what we can do on the field," Taylor said.
"I've only been here 12 months but talking to [Broncos forward] Adam Blair recently and they were having the same problems back then.
"I think the club has come a long way but still has a bit to get through.
"The recruitment decisions that have been made are positive steps moving forward as a club and we're still hopeful for this year and working as hard as we can to make sure it's successful."
This article first appeared on NRL.com