Elijah Taylor's long-term future is sealed with Taylor signing a three-year-deal with Wests Tigers, keeping him under the guidance of Ivan Cleary. Having formed a nifty relationship with Uncle Ivan at the Warriors, Cleary's arrival at the Tigers would have played a major role in keeping Taylor there and despite murmurings of a possible move back to the Warriors, that never felt likely.
Following Taylor's journey since he left Penrith Panthers to join the Tigers has only re-enforced how talented Taylor is, given that his niche is based on doing a solid job in a variety of different positions. The 'utility' tag often carries negative vibes with it, which completely overlooks the benefits of having someone who can play multiple positions without a drop off in the level of performance. This is especially relevant with fewer interchanges and more of a focus on concussion, meaning that there's more re-shuffling during games than ever.
Instead of viewing this utility value as hindering a player, it can be what many players base their whole career around and Taylor has already showcased how valuable he is for the Tigers in the 18 months he's been there, perhaps especially since Cleary has arrived. Taylor predominantly played lock under Jason Taylor, then with Matt Eisenhuth and Alex Twal getting more middle minutes, Taylor has played edge and hooker.
Where Taylor fits into a Tigers team that is developing at a swift rate will be an ever-changing situation. Matt McIlwrick, Jacob Liddle and Jeremy Marshall-King offer dummy half depth although Taylor's the best defensive option of those three, while there's also no shortage of middle forwards with the arrivals of Ben Matulino and Russell Packer, along with the recent re-signing of Tim Grant.
Out on the edges Chris McQueen will join the club next season, adding to Josh Aloiai, Michael Chee-Kam and Chris Lawrence. Injuries and suspension will give Taylor many opportunities to shine as he'll be there to fill any position Cleary asks of him, although I view lock as Taylor's best spot as he's got a lovely passing game that could blossom with Josh Reynolds, Luke Brooks and Tuimoala Lolohea. Taylor can be the link-man, responsible for getting the ball to Reynolds and Brooks out slightly wider and Taylor's range of passes allow him to execute most funky attacking plays.
Keep in mind that Benji Marshall is set to return to the Tigers and while I don't think anyone is expecting Marshall to demand a starting halves spot, the pure attacking funk that Marshall could offer off the bench, in conjunction with Taylor's play-making ability at lock will be something to keep tabs on. The Tigers haven't been too flash defensively, so having Taylor working hard in the middle with other mobile forwards such as Twal and Eisenhuth will give the Tigers a nice attack/defence balance.
With Taylor now signed on for a few more years, the Tigers' mammoth #KiwiNRL presence is now locked in and there could always be a few more additions as teams ease salary cap pressure. This is what makes the Tigers a team that I focus a fair chunk of energy on as they are leading the #KiwiNRL takeover, so here's there #KiwiNRL roster for 2018 (exlcuding #KiwiNRL lads who are yet to be re-signed like Watson Heleta, Jeremy Marshall-King) with the year they come off-contract:
Josh Aloiai (Auckland) - 2019.
Michael Chee-Kam (Auckland) - 2019.
Tuimoala Lolohea (Auckland) - 2019.
Benji Marshall (Whakatane) - 2018.
Esan Marsters (Auckland) - 2018.
Ben Matulino (Wellington) - 2020.
Matt McIlwrick (Christchurch) - 2019.
Taane Milne (Auckland) - 2019.
Russell Packer (Levin) - 2021.
Elijah Taylor (Hawera) - 2020.
Malakai Watene-Zelezniak (Hamilton) - 2018.
Here's a semi-realistic #KiwiNRL West Tigers team that we could see if the stars align via injury/suspension,I'll even chuck in Heleta and Marshall-King for the giggles:
Wings: Watene-Zelezniak*, David Nofoaluma.
Centres: Marsters*, Milne*.
Halves: Marshall*, Brooks.
Middles: Packer*, McIlwrick*, Matulino*, Taylor*.
Edges: Aloiai*, Chee-Kam*.
Bench: Marshall-King*, Alex Twal, Matt Eisenhuth, Tim Grant.
Peace and love 27.
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