Struggling Taylor turns to psychologist
HAVING spent time out of the media glare, Gold Coast playmaker Ash Taylor will return to the club this week to rebuild his NRL career with the support of mental health experts.
Taylor will return to the Titans on Thursday for a meeting with culture-and-performance boss Mal Meninga, who has pledged to implement a plan to reintegrate the out-of-sorts playmaker to the NRL.
Taylor dropped a bombshell on the Titans last week when he was granted compassionate leave to address some mental health issues.
The 24-year-old has since gone bush, spending the past seven days with family and friends in the Queensland town of St George, 550km west of the Gold Coast.
There were fears Taylor might never return to the NRL but the Titans will seek the help of mental health experts to educate the former Broncos young gun on how to deal with the pressures of top-level sport.
Taylor is the Gold Coast's highest-paid player on $1 million a season and Meninga hopes that helping the halfback as a person first can give him the tools to succeed as a professional athlete.
"I'm not a mental health expert so we need to talk to the specialists and we will make some stronger determinations," Meninga said.
"He's not in a good state at the moment. Ash needed some time away to clear his head.
"I don't know if he still has the love for the game, I can't answer that.
"When he comes back, hopefully he comes back with a clearer mind and we will be able to have those conversations.
"The key for Ash is that he has a strong support system around him and I will make sure that occurs."
Taylor has told close associates he was struggling to cope with the expectation of being the Titans' main man.
A torrent of social media abuse this season eroded his confidence to the point where he told the Titans he needed a break from the game.
Meninga said he has no idea when Taylor will formally return to the playing field.
"Ash has always been a quality player, but if he has some personal issues that he needs to overcome, he needs to sort those things out before he even thinks about football," he said.
"Life is about self-discovery. Ash is still trying to find his way in life. He is only a young player.
"We have great welfare people at the Titans and a strong education process and we're committed to helping him."
Meninga praised Taylor for opening up about his battle.
"There was a lot of people back in my time who were struggling with a lot of things in life. I saw a few of my mates who committed suicide," he said.
"Society has matured around that mental health space and it is about speaking up. That's the strength of the message in our game now, the strength of players to come out and speak up and say they have a problem.
"Compared to a few years ago, men didn't have the courage to speak up. There has been a change in societal attitude towards mental health. It takes a lot of courage, and fortitude and trust in people to speak up and I'm glad Ash communicated that."