Meninga won’t let Titans dump Taylor
TITANS culture chief Mal Meninga has come out swinging in support of Ash Taylor, declaring the troubled halfback is not for sale as the Gold Coast look to rebuild their $1 million franchise player.
Incoming coach Justin Holbrook has informed club bosses he wants Taylor on his roster next season amid speculation the Titans could offload the struggling playmaker under a subsidised transfer.
Speculation has intensified over Taylor's future at Parkwood, with rival NRL clubs understood to have made inquiries offering a fresh start for the 24-year-old following his year from hell at the Titans.
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A Queensland Origin prospect just 12 months ago, Taylor was granted a temporary break from the game in June to address some personal problems that have prompted the Titans to enlist psychological help.
Taylor's mental struggles have triggered suggestions he wants out of the Titans.
Meninga has worked closely with Taylor over the past eight weeks and says their highest-paid player, who is contracted until the end of 2021, will not be released.
"I haven't spoken to any club about Ash. I'm certainly not trying to get rid of him," Meninga said.
"It would be silly for us to offload him now. Everyone knows we have a big investment in Ash under our salary cap and we have to make sure the investment works.
"I've spoken to Justin (Holbrook) and he wants Ash part of the club.
"I believe and Justin believes that with a good pre-season behind him, we will get the best out of him next year."
The NRL player market is fluid and transfers can happen overnight if clubs are prepared to broker compensation deals, but it appears Taylor won't go anywhere until Holbrook gets a chance to work with him.
Currently at St Helens, Holbrook is due to start at the Titans in November and he believes he can resurrect the career of one of the code's brightest play-making talents.
Named the NRL's rookie-of-the-year in 2016, Taylor was tipped to steer the Titans to the finals this season, but he has lost his confidence and desire, playing just 10 games in the Coast's likely crash to a wooden-spoon finish.
Taylor returned briefly against the Roosters a fortnight ago, only to be rested again for welfare reasons in the wake of the Titans' 58-6 drubbing.
Holbrook could be the key to saving Taylor. He coached Taylor with the Junior Kangaroos in 2015 and the halfback responded to his mentoring, claiming man-of-the-match honours in a 22-20 defeat of the Junior Kiwis.
"It's not about Ash playing well at the moment," Meninga said. "He is going through a difficult period in his life so we don't want to throw Ash to the wolves. We just want him to get back enjoying a bit of footy.
"It doesn't mean to say he won't play first grade this year. That's another rumour going around. That's certainly not true. He could be back this year. But it's about looking after him and his welfare first and I want to help Ash get his confidence and enjoyment back for the game.
"At the moment, we're trying to help Ash get his love back for the game. That underpins everything. Your desire reflects your attitude and work ethic and your passion to want to succeed in the NRL.
"He needs to get his self-belief back and we believe he can do it here at the Titans."