During the final moments of Origin 2, many rugby league commentators, journalists, ex-players and fans were already flooding social media to express their opinions on who should replace Queensland halfback Ben Hunt.
The two obvious choices were whether to recall the experienced Daly Cherry-Evans after a three-year Origin hiatus or blood young superstar and 2016 Dally M Rookie of the Year, Ash Taylor.Embed from Getty Images
Opinions were evenly split between the pair, with journalists and ex-players overwhelmingly in support of a Cherry-Evans return to Origin.
On the other hand, fans were quite scathing with their assessments of Cherry-Evans and overwhelmingly supported the move to debut Ash Taylor in the dead rubber fixture, with an eye to the future.
At the conclusion of Origin 2 in Sydney, a disastrous performance from Ben Hunt and a New South Wales series victory would have had Ash Taylor licking his lips at the prospect of Queensland’s number seven jersey becoming available.
Unfortunately for Taylor, it was quite evident in his performance the weekend before the Queensland team was announced for Origin 3, the pressure of high expectations had got to him.
It certainly looked as if he was desperate for an Origin spot, overplaying his hand, trying too hard to execute low percentage plays and showing a lack of patience.
Once team selections were made public and it was announced that Cherry-Evans had been selected ahead of him, the motivation for Taylor was to prove to the selectors that they had made the wrong choice, but again the pressure was too much and he produced another frustrating performance.
Taylor is often compared to fellow young gun, Nathan Cleary. Cleary was fortunate enough to capture the Blues’ halfback spot for this year’s Origin series. This doesn’t mean Cleary is a better player than Taylor.
Ash Taylor finished first for try assists in 2017 and at the time of this writing, leads the competition in try assists thus far in 2018. The kid can play.
The obvious difference between the two is Cleary has the luxury of being the son of Ivan Cleary, who has almost 500 games combined experience as player and head coach.
He’s a part of a Panthers system led by Phil Gould, a man whose record speaks for itself and has arguably more rugby league knowledge than anyone else involved in the game.
He’s also had the privilege of playing alongside senior players such as Peter Wallace and James Maloney who both have a plethora of big match experience.
Ash Taylor on the other hand, came into a Gold Coast Titans system which was a basket case at the time, he didn’t have the players with big-match experience around him.Embed from Getty Images
He suffered a tumultuous 1.5 years playing alongside Jarryd Hayne and all the distractions that came with his signing.
He’s also played under an experienced, yet unsuccessful coach in Neil Henry and now a rookie mentor in Garth Brennan.
Taylor needs help ascending to the next level. He requires guidance with what is required to become an Origin player.
Do the Titans look to employ a halves coach, in a role similar to what Andrew Johns has contributed to many clubs?
Does somebody like Scott Prince or Johnathan Thurston at season’s end put their hand up and offer to help with Taylor’s development?
Perhaps he needs another stint in Queensland’s pre-season camp, with a prime focus of working on his weaknesses and providing a clear path on what he’s required to do in order to be considered for future selection.
Whatever the solution, Ash Taylor needs a mentor.
It would be inconceivable if a player of his talent, is unable to reach his full potential.