The running man: Taylor cops tip from Johns

Advice from Matthew Johns has Ash Taylor steeled to showcase his running game and keep a cool head as he aims to lift Gold Coast into the top eight.

The 23-year-old halfback insists he has just scratched the surface in terms of his ball-playing capabilities and also credits Johnathan Thurston - now part of the Queensland Origin coaching staff - for reinforcing in him the importance of competing on every play.

With close friend Tyrone Roberts set to feature alongside him in the halves, Taylor now wants to up the ante with his running game.

He lost seven kilos in the off-season and told NRL.com he had spoken to his mentor and Newcastle premiership-winner Johns about areas he needed to improve.

"Matty Johns wants me to bring my running game back," Taylor said.

"He said that is one of the things I have been lacking the last few years because I’ve been copping so much heat.

"I have been practising bringing my running game back this pre-season at training, and that is because I have worked hard at my fitness.

"The other thing Matty has encouraged me to do is to keep a calm head. On the field you have a hundred things running through your head at once but the key is to have just a few things set in your mind, and to really go with it."

Titans halfback Ash Taylor.
Titans halfback Ash Taylor. ©NRL Photos

Taylor, who had minor shoulder surgery in January, averaged 50m per game over the past three seasons but insists he can improve after working overtime to get himself in shape. 

"Matty called me over the Christmas break and was telling me that I was going great, because he keeps close to Garth [Brennan]," Taylor said.

"I think we are going to get Matty up to training again at some stage. He is only a call away if I need him. I am not afraid to ask my mentors for advice."

After attending the Emerging Maroons Origin camp recently, Taylor said he also acquired another mentor whose words of wisdom he intended to follow. Johnathan Thurston has been added to Kevin Walters' coaching staff and had some timely advice for Taylor.

"I just need to compete more on every play," Taylor said.

"When the Titans are on top, or when we need to fight, I love that competitiveness, and I'll stick with that.

"That was the word from JT himself when he had a chat in camp. He was the smallest on the field, but he always competed."

Taylor said having Roberts by his side this year would bring out the best in his play, as it did in 2016.

When Taylor first signed with the Titans at the end of 2015, coach Neil Henry told the former Bronco he would be partnering Kane Elgey in the halves.

Titans playmaker Tyrone Roberts.
Titans playmaker Tyrone Roberts. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

"Then Neil signed Tyrone Roberts and that is when I was in a grey area," Taylor said.

"I thought 'I've left this great system at the Broncos to come down here and I'm not going to start'. Unfortunately for Elg he did his ACL and I was thrown in the deep end straight away, but I wouldn't have been able to play the footy I did without Ty Roberts.

"He inspired me to play the brand of footy I did. I really want to be more consistent this year and I feel as though the team we have now, and with Ty on board, is going to help me do that."

Taylor said Roberts' control and talk, and general demeanour, was a constant source of inspiration.

"Back in 2016 Ty dominated the field with his words and advice and helped take the heat off my kicking game and helped me compete," Taylor said.

"Then as soon as he started training with us this year, after coming back from a toe injury, his presence alone made me step my game up."

Taylor firmly believes the Titans can defy the critics and roar back into the top eight in 2019.

"It was a great year in 2016 for the club to make the finals again after six years on the outer, and that is on everyone’s minds here again," he said.

"We want to make sure we play semi-final footy again. After that, who knows."