Taylor makes finals bow
NO AMOUNT of pennies will be eliciting Elijah Taylor's thoughts ahead of Saturday's grand final qualifier against the Storm in Melbourne.
Recalled in place of Ukuma Ta'ai, Taylor will make his finals bow after being overlooked for the matches against the Broncos and Tigers.
Along with the rest of the Warriors' brigade of young stars, the 21-year-old Taylor has been kept out of the media spotlight this week, with a bunch of senior players detailed to handle the jaw-flapping duties. Coach Ivan Cleary, perhaps in jest, put that down to "random selection".
However, as Cleary pointed out, there is little mystery behind Taylor's selection ahead of the hulking Ta'ai.
"They are two different styles of players," Cleary said. "I guess it is not too hard to work out why I have done that."
Ta'ai struggled to live with the pace of the game against the Tigers in Sydney. He lasted just 23 minutes, making two carries and eight tackles and was dragged shortly after being stepped by Benji Marshall for the Tigers' second try.
With the Storm relentless in testing opposing defences on both sides of the ruck, Taylor's high workrate game made him an obvious selection.
"Our defence in the first half was a problem [against the Tigers]," Cleary said. "Certainly in big games and finals having guys who relish defence and workrate can't hurt. [Taylor] has certainly earned his spot in the team. He's been pretty much a regular all year and he'll do well on Saturday."
While he was not speaking yesterday, Taylor could be spotted mooching around the club carpark checking out his sponsored vehicle. It says plenty about his rising status that, despite still being very much a rookie, the Hawera-born utility is already viewed as an attractive sponsorship commodity.
"I love playing with Elijah," said veteran lock Micheal Luck. "He works as hard as any young kid I have ever played with. He knows everything about the game and knows everything about every player who we'll be taking on on Saturday night. There is no better definition of a student of the game.
"He's sat and waited patiently for this opportunity and he won't let anyone down."
Feleti Mateo has been slated to start in the left edge back row position. However, Cleary has frequently opted to use Mateo as an impact player, so Taylor could yet start against the Storm.
With Luck and Simon Mannering also in the back row mix, it is clear the Warriors will attempt to match the Storm's smothering defence with an imposing screen of their own.
As Mannering pointed out, Taylor might lack Ta'ai's physicality, but his ball-playing ability makes up for that. And having been an unused 18th man for each of the last two matches, he will also add a fresh presence to a side that will be leg-weary after two arduous finals encounters.
"Elijah is a very skilful footballer," Mannering said. "He's been itching to get back in the side and make a difference and I'm sure he will."
- Shaun Berrigan has been named in the Vulcans side to take on Cronulla in the qualifying final of the NSW Cup at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday. A first choice centre for much of the season, Berrigan injured his hip in the round 25 defeat by St George Illawarra. Cleary admitted he considered recalling Berrigan, who was replaced in the side by last week's match-winner Krisnan Inu, to face the Storm. "He was a huge part of my thinking but at the end of the day you have only got 17 players and I am confident the 17 that are playing this week will do the job for us," Cleary said.