Ash the talk of his town
Every Friday night more than a dozen of St George's finest gather at The Australian Hotel to discuss the most pressing issues of the week.
They call it the 'Table of Knowledge' and in addition to debating events in history and how to solve the modern world's problems, a young man by the name of Ashley Taylor regularly comes up in conversation.
Taylor's rugby league career began in the tiny town of St George 500 kilometres west of Brisbane just north of the border with New South Wales and last Sunday reached the heights of a man-of-the-performance playing for the Gold Coast Titans in the NRL.
Although the rise has been rapid there were the portents of great things from a very young age until eventually Taylor got to the point where his family recognised he needed to be in a bigger pond if he was to progress.
The people of St George keep a close eye on one of their brightest exports and those who assemble at the 'Table of Knowledge' this Friday will dissect his most recent exploits in minute detail.
"They beat the Panthers on the weekend and he was pretty instrumental in that so I reckon he will come up in conversation again," says Taylor's former junior coach David Cooper.
"It's a talking point with us. There's a crew of us who sit at the pub every Friday night and have a bit of a yarn and he's a topic of conversation regularly."
Taylor first signed up to play with St George in the under-6s and progressed to the point where junior coaches had little more they could teach him other than to use his small shoulders more in defence.
In games against Mungindi, Lightning Ridge and Dirranbandi he was two steps ahead of anyone else on the field until there was a suggestion of self-sabotage from within the club in the under-10s grand final.
"By the time he got to under-10s, anything I tried to teach him he probably knew how to do it already," recalls Cooper.
"As a coach all we could really do was try to make him attune to a team way of thinking instead of individual efforts and just steering him in that direction.
"That's about all we could do with him, he was just way above everybody else.
"I had another young fella in town here and it took me ages to educate him enough to be able to even put pressure on Ash.
"In under-10s we had enough kids for two St George teams and at the end of the year they played off in the grand final and Ashley's team actually lost. It was the first game they had lost all season.
"In the arena where he was out here he was probably a bit disadvantaged because he didn't have to use his full potential against the blokes he was playing against."
When Taylor came to the attention of Broncos scouts as a 12-year-old the family moved to Toowoomba so that he had the best chance to fulfil his destiny but his eventual move to Brisbane would be the greatest test of his resolve.
Like many kids his age the 18-year-old Taylor felt homesick and wanted to quit but said that the support of his parents and family kept him on the right path towards an NRL career.
"I was honestly in the same boat. When I went to the Broncos I hated it," Taylor told NRL.com.
"I was ringing Mum and Dad up every night telling them I wanted to come home but they kept pushing me and said that they'd move down to Brisbane if that's what we needed to do.
"They were very determined for me to make it in the NRL and I just adapted to the lifestyle down there and made a few friends but they've been there the whole time.
"I appreciate everything they've done for me. A lot of money, a lot of hard yards and a lot of travelling."
As for his formative years in St George, it is those experiences that you can only have in smaller regional communities that remain most endearing.
"When my mum used to go to bingo on a Sunday night all us boys who used to play in the same team, we'd all go to bingo with our parents and then go outside and play footy," Taylor said.
"Playing footy with my brothers and cousins, just a lot of great memories that you can never forget."
This story first appeared on nrl.com.au