Playmaker’s contract audition hits major injury setback
Ash Taylor's quest to secure a new NRL contract has hit a hurdle, with the Gold Coast Titans five-eighth to be sidelined for a month and coach Justin Holbrook noncommittal to his future.
Taylor suffered a broken hand during last Friday night's derby demolition of the Broncos at Cbus Super Stadium, his 100th game for the club.
He will be replaced by utility Tanah Boyd in the No. 6 jersey for Sunday's game against North Queensland in Townsville.
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Boyd was elevated from the Burleigh Bears bench to starting side in last Sunday's Intrust Super Cup game to prepare him for an NRL return.
Boyd's inclusion is the only change for the Titans to the team that recorded a third straight derby victory against the Broncos.
Star lock Tino Fa'asuamaleaui reported calf soreness after the Broncos game but was named at No. 13 for the Cowboys game.
The Titans are being secretive about Taylor's injury and the five-eighth said the club would not allow him to talk about it when contacted by News Corp on Tuesday.
It appears likely he will miss around three to four weeks of football.
The injury is a blow for the off-contract playmaker, who is trying to secure a new deal with the Titans but is yet to enter contract talks with the club.
Holbrook last week avoided the topic when asked if Taylor would be offered a new deal by the Titans.
If Taylor is offered an extension, it is likely to be worth less than half of his current $1 million-a-season deal.
Sunday's game shapes as a crucial clash for both teams.
The Cowboys are yet to win a game under new coach Todd Payten and will be without star duo Kyle Feldt (suspended) and Jason Taumalolo (broken hand).
Having run in the bottom four for the past three years, the Cowboys are a team the Titans should beat if they are serious about playing finals in 2021.
Holbrook said it would be a failure if the Titans didn't qualify for their first play-offs appearance since 2016.
"It's a failure for any side that doesn't make finals," Holbrook told Fox League.
"Every side is expected to make the top eight and we're no different.
"There's a bit of expectation around us this year so it will be disappointing but a lot of things have to happen between now and the end of the year for us to get in there so we have to prove we should be there."
Out-of-favour Bronco set for Mr Fixit role
Broncos coach Kevin Walters will consider catapulting out-of-favour halfback Tom Dearden into a Mr Fixit role for Saturday night's clash against the Bulldogs at Suncorp Stadium.
The Courier-Mail understands Walters is toying with the idea of deploying Dearden off the bench despite the off-contract playmaker being left out of Brisbane's 17-man squad for the third consecutive week.
Dearden was named 18th man for the Bulldogs clash, but the 20-year-old may yet be a late inclusion for the round-three showdown as Walters ponders bringing a creative element to his interchange rotation.
Walters has named a four-forward bench comprising John Asiata, Rhys Kennedy, Ethan Bullemor and Ben Te'o, but the Broncos coach is mulling over having another utility option in Dearden.
The blond-haired playmaker had a varied role at Broncos training on Tuesday, having a stint in the second-string Renegades outfit before spending time in the main team at dummy half in a sign Walters is considering several selection permutations.
Walters' side is otherwise unchanged, with Matt Lodge (hamstring) still sidelined as the Broncos coach kept faith in underfire halves Anthony Milford and Brodie Croft despite a 28-16 loss to the Titans last week.
The Broncos have dropped 13 consecutive games and are desperate to snap their club-record losing streak against the Canterbury club they beat 26-8 at the same venue last July.
Broncos lock Pat Carrigan said Dearden deserved to come into calculations after his slick two-try performance in Souths Logan's Intrust Super Cup defeat of Burleigh last Sunday.
"Tommy played well for Souths on the weekend, I didn't see the game but I heard the conditions were terrible," he said.
"He is a competitor and clubs are after him for a reason.
"Whoever 'Kevvie' picks in the seven, it's 'Crofty' at the moment, but if Tommy gets the chance in the side I'm sure he will take it with both hands."
Carrigan said the Broncos were desperate to record their first win of the season after another midfield capitulation against the Titans and he challenged Brisbane's forward pack to muscle up against the Dogs.
"It was really embarrassing, there is no way to sugarcoat it," he said.
"They were all pretty soft tries we conceded (against the Titans) and a lot of it comes back to attitude and one-off decisions.
"When you put yourself under that much pressure, it doesn't matter who you are, you are going to be able to score some points.
"We are two games into a new season, we had some issues there (in defence) on the weekend and we have to own that as a forward pack.
"When it comes to executing on game day, we've missed the mark. We haven't spoken how many games we have lost in the past, but we're 0-2 (this season) and we are looking to get off the mark against the Doggies on Saturday night.
"I'm sick of not winning."
Originally published as Playmaker's contract audition hits major injury setback