The Titans' Ash Taylor should be playing State of Origin, Tony Durkin says.
The Titans' Ash Taylor should be playing State of Origin, Tony Durkin says. DAVE HUNT

Titans' Taylor made for State of Origin

IN 2015, when Ash Taylor played his one and only NRL game for the Broncos, Nathan Cleary was captain of the Panthers' SG Ball team and known only because he was the son of an NRL coach.

Back then Taylor, at 19, was NYC Player of the Year, and a gun. Most good judges considered him the next big thing and, potentially for the Broncos, an on-field general in the mould of Allan Langer and Darren Lockyer.

But, inexplicably, the Broncos cut him free. Although he had been scouted as a 12-year-old, played NYC for three seasons and had a year to run on a three-year contract, he was released to go to the Titans.

Two years younger, Cleary was still at school when Taylor's debut for the Broncos ended prematurely with a compound finger fracture.

While both are superbly talented, Cleary has climbed the ladder to success much quicker, and with more composure.

When Cleary was debuting for NSW in Melbourne two weeks ago, Taylor was sitting at home on the Gold Coast possibly wondering - like many others - where it had gone awry.

At 23, chock-full of every skill in the book and with 58 NRL games behind him, Taylor should have been Cleary's opposite number at the MCG. And that is not meant to be a criticism of Ben Hunt, who certainly deserved his elevation to starting halfback.

But with Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk both quitting the rep scene after such lengthy tenures, the time was right for Queensland to look to the future. And that future should have been 23-year-old Taylor, not 28-year-old Hunt.

Ash Taylor has backed rules brought in by the NRL to protect players from foul play. Picture: Scott Fletcher
The Titans' Ash Taylor is on a $3 million three-year contract. Picture: Scott Fletcher.

Taylor has it all. His vision with the ball in his hands is outstanding, his long and short-kicking game is superb, and he is robust in defence - although sometimes can be found wanting in one-on-one situations. And, importantly, the kid is tough.

So, the question needs to be asked - has Ash Taylor wasted the past 2½ seasons? Has he fallen by the wayside in a culture at the Titans that he described earlier this season as loose?

Or, like a handful of players - Daly Cherry-Evans, Jason Taumalolo, Anthony Milford and Michael Morgan - has Taylor fallen victim to what has become the obscene payday? After all, a $3 million three-year contract is sure to create a comfort zone.

But that inflated recompense brings with it responsibility, and pressure.

When Taylor signed his new deal, coach Garth Brennan anointed him as the player to "own the team and deliver the Titans a premiership".

Well, unless a miracle is about to occur, the premiership will not be delivered this year. And unless there are injuries, Taylor won't get the call-up to Origin this series either.

But for the sake of Queensland, the Titans and the game in general, it can only be hoped that Ash Taylor takes a long, hard look in the mirror and asks himself where his career - and his talent - is headed.