New Zealand Warriors chief executive officer Cameron George has confirmed his club's interest in signing ex-Titan Ash Taylor for the 2022 season.
George's confirmation comes in the wake of reports that Taylor and the Warriors' head coach Nathan Brown were spotted meeting publicly on Thursday of last week.
Taylor was told earlier this month that his time on the paradise strip was over after proving unable to live up to the expectations his hefty contract inevitably brought.
The Toowoomba-born half had been earning $1 million a season with the Parkwood club, but given Gold Coast head coach Justin Holbrook had preferred several other options in the six and seven slots, the 26-year-old's future looked dire across the final stretch of the season.
Still, George held the alternative view that Taylor still had something left to offer at first-grade level.
“We met with Ash. We’re here on the Gold Coast and he’s here and is looking for options for next year and we’re looking for options as well to build our depth,” George told Stuff.co.nz.
“We decided to sit down to have a chat with him and it was good to have a chat and get to know him, he’s a good kid.”
With the Mount Smart franchise appearing likely to deploy Chanel Harris-Tavita alongside returning Warrior Shaun Johnson next season, should Taylor sign on with the Shaky Isle side, the Queenslander would replace Sean O'Sullivan as the third-string playmaking option.
“We haven’t signed Sean O’Sullivan and we’re looking for the best option for our footy club,” George revealed.
“Ash hasn’t signed for anywhere next year. He’s a kid that’s got talent and we wanted to sit down and have a chat with him, understand where he’s at.
“Paul Turner has gone, Sean is going, we’ve got Chanel who’s a big part of our future and we’ve also got Shaun Johnson, but it’s about building some depth as well.”
Even though Harris-Tavita appears likely to be offered first crack at pairing with Johnson next season, should Taylor regain the form that previously saw him regarded as one of the most precocious halves in the competition, the Warriors may finally have depth in the playmaking positions.
According to George, if Taylor joins his third club, Kodi Nikorima is likely to be moved sideways into the 14 jersey next season.
“You’ve got Kodi, Chanel, Shaun Johnson,” George said of his side's stocks.
“If we can find the right option and I’m not saying Ash is. But if we can find the right option to add depth and create a more competitive environment around those key roles, that’s going to breed success for our footy club and that’s what we’re here to do.
“We’re not looking after anyone, we’re trying to build a really competitive unit where every player, every day, is looking over their shoulder to make sure they’re doing what they need to do to keep their starting position.”
Having spent periods of this season playing reserve grade, Taylor's worth on the player market has plummeted. Should he sign-on with the wandering Warriors next year, you can bet your bottom dollar that his deal will be nowhere in the vicinity of the one he inked at the Titans.
With former cashed-up Bronco Anthony Milford signing a fractional deal with Souths for next season after earning nigh-on $1 million a season in Brisbane, a similar deal, if not lighter, is likely to be tabled to Taylor.
However, George claimed it is up to the Indigenous All-Stars representative whether he chooses to take the cut or not.
Although several other sides including Wests, Canberra and Canterbury have sounded out his services, George was of the view that the sunshine state-based Warriors could offer Taylor familiarity next season.
“We haven’t got to that point at all. But the reality is we’re in Queensland for one year and it may well suit all parties," he continued,
“It could be one of the advantages about being based locally. But we haven’t got as far as looking at money.
“We just wanted to meet him because we’re on the Coast and he’s on the Coast. I’m glad we did meet him, because he’s a good kid.”