Taylor out to rain on hero’s parade
ASH Taylor will put aside personal sentiment for 80 minutes on Saturday as he attempts to rain on the parade of the man he one day hopes to emulate.
Johnathan Thurston will play his final game against the Titans at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday, lining up against Taylor - once a starry-eyed indigenous kid who hero-worshipped the Cowboys and Maroons great.
Regarded by most as an immortal-in-waiting, it is not just an on-field legacy that Thurston will leave.
The way he has conducted himself as a role model in the community has had just as much of an impact on Taylor as any move he has made for the Cowboys, Queensland or Australia.
"It'll go down as one to remember, his last game - and hopefully we beat him in his last game," Taylor said of the Titans' hopes to end their season on a high.
"That's our goal, is to rain on his parade.
"But to look over his career, it's been massive for himself and his family, and to be able to run out against him in his last game will be something to remember for a long time."
As a kid growing up in country Queensland, Taylor was a Broncos fan who idolised Darren Lockyer.
But seeing Thurston position himself as a role model on an off the field - especially in the indigenous community - had a massive impact on Taylor.
"It meant so much," Taylor said.
"He's done a lot of great things over the years and that's why he's become a role model for my generation and the next generation coming through - they're still looking up to him.
"He'll go down as one of the best and to be able to play against him has just been a dream - and to play alongside him was even more of a dream.
"He's such a role model for us (players) and he'll still be a role model off the field for young indigenous people."
Taylor became the game's latest million-dollar man last year when he signed a deal that keeps him on the Gold Coast until at least 2021.
But rather than splash out on flashy cars or wild spending sprees, the youngster hopes to form his own foundation to help players - especially indigenous youngsters - from western Queensland.
"I think everyone's dream is to (have an impact like Thurston)," Taylor said.
"I've had dreams to play State of Origin and just play NRL, so to be looking up to players and get to play alongside them - people like Justin Hodges, Corey Parker, Sam Thaiday - hopefully young people look up to me and they do get to play against me or with me at some time."
The Titans will honour Thurston on Saturday - but after the match is finished.
"We've got to do our job first, that's what every week has been about - the last few weeks has been about ourselves and making sure we play our best footy," Taylor said.
Taylor himself is back on track again after a rough patch earlier this season when he said he played "probably the worst I've had in my career".
"People have such high expectations but don't' really know what you're going through when you go through those low points," he said.
Concentrating only on his own job has helped Taylor bounce back through and he will slug it out with Thurston on Saturday as the pair vie to finish the season as the league's try assist leader.
"My biggest focus (over the past few weeks) has been doing my job and doing my job the best I can rather than worrying about other people's job on the field," he said.
"And I'm going to keep doing this weekend as well. It's been a learning curve for me massively and I'll benefit from it."