Taylor puts slow start behind him for Origin charge
GOLD Coast performance chief Mal Meninga has leapt to the defence of Ash Taylor as pressure builds on the $1 million halfback to deliver bang for his buck and steer the Titans to the playoffs.
Taylor will be one of the headline attractions when the Titans officially kick off the NRL's Magic Round against the Sharks at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night.
The Titans are languishing in 14th spot on percentage and their cause has not been helped by a frustrating start for their main man Taylor, who missed the opening three rounds of the season with a leg injury.
But with the Origin series looming and incumbent Maroons halfback Daly Cherry-Evans in doubt with an ankle injury, Taylor is keen to produce a sizzling month of form - starting tonight against 2016 premiers Cronulla.
Taylor has come under fire for his patchy performances but Titans culture and performance boss Meninga has backed the former Broncos playmaker to haul the Coast out of the NRL cellar.
"That's part of the deal being a professional footy player. You have to put the noise aside," Meninga said.
"You have to put your crap protectors on, as we used to call them in the good old days, and just get on with playing footy. That's what Ash does best.
"I thought he had one of his better games for a long time last Friday night (in the Titans' 28-14 loss to the Cowboys).
"He's on the up and he would have drawn a lot of confidence out of that game."
Gold Coast coach Garth Brennan has consistently challenged Taylor to stamp his mark on the Titans and the 24-year-old admits he is rediscovering his confidence after some early-season injury battles.
"I took a step forward with my game and this weekend I need to step up again," Taylor said.
"This year has been tough. I picked up a few niggles at the start of the year and it's been hard coming off the back of it.
"It's been hard to find that form that I know I'm capable of. I'm not 100 per cent trusting my body, but I feel as though I took a step in the right direction last week and hopefully the team can get back on track.
"I have been working hard the last few weeks, my body felt great on the weekend, especially my legs.
"I'm doing what the physios are telling me and getting my body back to where I know it should be at."
Just 12 months ago, Taylor was on the cusp of making his Origin debut for Queensland in the game three dead rubber, only for Maroons coach Kevin Walters to opt for the experience of Cherry-Evans.
Taylor concedes he needs to improve to be a legitimate Origin contender this season, but believes he has the skill set to handle the code's toughest arena.
"I think I could do the job," he said.
"It's everyone's goal coming up in the NRL to one day play Origin.
"I'm still a little bit away from Origin form. I'm only five games into my 2019 season, so I need to get more games under my belt to get my confidence and form back.
"As a side, we didn't have a great start being 0-4 and trying to catch up from there, but we haven't got the mindset that the season has slipped away.
"We are hopeful we can be in the eight and I'm determined to work hard to get us there."