Wests Tigers powerbroker Mike Bailey lauds Jason Taylor’s role in NRL finals bid
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Wests Tigers powerbroker Mike Bailey believes Jason Taylor has made a case to be the club’s long-term coach by handling the backlash that came with the dumping of Robbie Farah to steer the team to the brink of the NRL finals.
Taylor is contracted until the end of next season but for much of this year has appeared anything but a certainty to see out that period as controversy raged about the treatment of Farah on top of a six-match losing streak earlier in the campaign.
An enthralling final 10 minutes from Wests saw them stun New Zealand at Mt Smart Stadium with the Tigers scoring the final three tries for a 36-24 win.
With the Tigers in contention to secure a top-eight position this weekend, Taylor’s job is not only all but guaranteed for next year but he could find himself in discussions in the off-season about an extension of his contract at Concord Oval.
It is a remarkable turnaround for a man who, amid rumoured pushes for Ivan Cleary and Todd Payten to replace him, was under siege and tipped by many to be the first NRL coach sacked this year.
The Tigers’ unlikely finals bid has delighted club officials, who give Taylor credit for the rise of players such as five-eighth Mitchell Moses and for backing himself on the difficult mid-season demotion of Farah.
“I’ve got to say that we’re very pleased about where we sit at the moment,” said Bailey, a Tigers board member and chairman of the club’s majority owners Wests Ashfield.
"We’ve been through a bad patch but Jason Taylor has worked very methodically over last two years to put together a very good combination [of players], look after the best interests of the team and deliver the best result.
"The Robbie Farah situation is regrettable but the thing to remember is it’s not a feud, it’s about his assessment of Robbie in terms of what he can contribute to the team.
“That’s another reason why Jason Taylor really does stand tall at the moment in terms of what he’s been able to achieve with the team, particularly given we’ve been without the state’s best hooker and in recent times without [the injured] James Tedesco as well.”
Asked on Thursday whether Taylor had made a case to be the Tigers’ long-term coach by exceeding the expectations of most this season, Bailey said: "I think he has. That’s my view but as a board we will look at the longer term future on where things go. I’ve got to say he has been a stalwart in terms of delivering in terms of the things against him. One, with Farah and the Farah publicity situation, and also when the team struck a bad patch he stuck with it.
“I had people saying to me in the street ‘who are you going to replace Jason Taylor with?’. I told them we had no plans for that and given the way the season has gone you can have no plans like that.”
Farah has been widely expected to link with South Sydney next season, although Cronulla has been another suitor, but the exit of the club legend has hinged on negotiations about how much of his $950,000 contract the Tigers are willing to cover next year.
The Blues hooker is the joint venture’s most decorated player and his dumping remains a polarising topic among supporters.
The emergence, however, of Moses as a genuine first-grade star this season has given even those still calling for Taylor’s head reason to believe there are bright times ahead.
The uber-confident nephew of Ben Elias is arguably the most improved player in the competition and Bailey says the coach deserves at least some credit for the 21-year-old’s rise.
“To some extent Jason tended to support Mitchell Moses last year, 2015, through some not so brilliant performances…he came good towards the end of the season, but early on I think a lot of his reputation had been built in the lower grades and there was a lot of pressure on him to deliver,” Bailey said.
“This year he has been a true champion and has been a standout player in just about every game we’ve taken the field for. You have to give marks to the patience of the coach to have stuck with him along the way. By doing that, it obviously helped to build his confidence.”