As he enters the final year of his contract at the Panthers, tough Kiwi backrower Elijah Taylor says he’ll put it all on the line this season to secure a new deal.
The 25-year-old former New Zealand international joined the Panthers in 2013 and will serve his third and final year of that contract when he runs out for the club in their 50th season.
With the Panthers flush with backrowers, including rising stars Bryce Cartwright and Tyrone Peachey plus new recruit Trent Merrin, Taylor admits he’ll have to work extra hard to earn himself a few more years at the foot of the Mountains.
“I would love to stick around, that would be really good,” he told the Weekender.
“The competition among players has been really good for me, really refreshing, to keep me on my toes. Hopefully having those quality players around me will keep my standards high.”
While Taylor revealed contract negotiations are yet to begin between he and the club, many people believed the former Warriors star could end up at Ivan Cleary’s next club – if and when he secures one.
It’s no secret Taylor and the former Panthers coach – who was sacked in the off-season – had a strong bond due to their time in Auckland together, with many suggesting a reunion in 2017 could be on the cards.
Taylor interestingly admitted Cleary’s departure and the arrival of new coach Anthony Griffin didn’t affect him or the playing group for too long.
“Oh probably for the first day it was [strange] but you’re a professional footy player, those things happen,” he said.
“The boys have enjoyed the pre-season so far and we’re all getting along with Hook (Griffin) really well.”
It could be an interesting year for Taylor in more ways than just organising his future beyond this season.
With State of Origin star Trent Merrin’s arrival at the club plus the emergence of some very talented backrowers, it’s been widely tipped Taylor – a machine in defence – could find his way out of Penrith’s starting side and onto the interchange bench.
Such a decision would be a huge gamble for Penrith, with Taylor averaging a team-leading 48.3 tackles per game in 2015.
“I’m not too sure about positions to be honest because all the backrowers have been training in different positions,” Taylor said.
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for nearly a decade.