ASH Taylor is firming as the man to guide Queensland’s next State of Origin dynasty.
The rookie half has been a revelation for the Gold Coast Titans since being thrust into the spotlight when Kane Elgey succumbed to a knee injury in pre-season.
Only 13 matches into his NRL career, Taylor’s performances are catching the attention of all the right people – including Maroons coach Kevin Walters.
Walters had no hesitation when asked if he could see Taylor becoming an Origin star: “Yeah, I certainly can”.
“I mean obviously it’s not there for him at the moment but down the track if he continues to develop on the pathway that he is on, he will give himself every chance,” he said.
Given legendary playmaking pairing Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk are expected to play on in the Maroon jersey for at least another year, Taylor has time on his side to catapult himself ahead of other contenders.
“They (Thurston and Cronk) are not in a hurry and we don’t want them to be in a hurry either,” Walters said.
“There’s a good strong list of players coming through underneath those two and when the transition is right, someone will put their hand up and away they’ll go.”
Among his chief rivals to step into the No.6 and No.7 are Michael Morgan, Anthony Milford, Ben Hunt, Daly Cherry-Evans and Moses Mbye.
By the time the 2018 Origin series arrives, Taylor will be 23 years of age.
With Morgan, Milford and even Mbye more suited to a running role, Taylor’s direct competitors will be more advanced in their careers in 2018: Hunt will be 28 and Cherry-Evans 29. And if Thurston or Cronk extend their representative career another year, that will further hand Taylor the advantage.
As well as boasting an excellent kicking game, the Toowoomba junior is also an accurate goal-kicker – something the Maroons will be hunting for when Thurston, Cameron Smith and Corey Parker move on.
Such is Walters’ opinion of Taylor, who he previously mentored at Brisbane, that he invited him to join Camp Maroon ahead of Game I.
The Titans half had to give the opportunity a miss in order to rest his battered body.
“Ash is a great young talent coming through,” Walters said.
“I like what he brings to the footy team, he’s had a tremendous start at the Titans to his NRL career.
“I haven’t really been surprised by what he’s doing having worked with him at the Broncos … it’s always tough in your first year of NRL but he seems to be handling it quite well at the moment.”
Taylor’s next assignment is Monday’s match against Manly on the Gold Coast. Taylor only had light duties at training yesterday but is considered a certain starter.