In the past, Elijah Taylor would play with scarcely any worries whatsoever.
Still, all of that would lead to what was, at the time, possibly the best round of his rugby association career.
A long time ago, the free forward had fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming a professional player. He was drawn to the game as a child when he watched it on TV, and he got through the system at NRL team New Zealand Warriors.
At this point, he was also a full-fledged New Zealand international and was planning to play for the Kiwis when they played England in the 2013 Rugby League World Cup semi-final.
But as the group bus got closer to Wembley, Taylor had an overwhelming feeling he had never had before.
Taylor told Sky Sports, “When I was 18, everything was easy.” “I didn’t have a lot of responsibilities, football was fun, my body was in great shape, I was playing well, and I felt like I could keep doing this forever.
“I didn’t play a world game against England at Wembley until I was in my mid-20s. On the way there, I saw all the fans and thought, “I really need to play well here.” After that, I felt pressure like I’d never felt it before.
“Then you get a serious injury, and you think, ‘Man, I didn’t expect this to happen.’ Then, at that point, you either get a new mentor or your good relationship with your mentor ends.
“There are a lot of different things that can happen, and there are a lot of things you want to control, but you can’t. This wide range of tensions keeps popping up out of nowhere, and I’ve noticed it happening more and more as I get older.
Taylor is now 32 years old and the manager of the Salford Red Devils. He wants to use his experiences to teach other players, especially younger ones just starting out in the professional game, that they will face hard times in their careers and that they should feel comfortable talking to someone about them.
The Betfred Super League’s “Tackle the Tough Stuff” mental health campaign, which is part of Rugby League Cares, is back in action with Round 13 of the 2022 season. On Friday, Salford hosts Castleford Tigers in a game that will be shown live on Sky Sports.
One of the hardest parts of Taylor’s job was when he had to go to court with a previous director in his country after being scammed out of more than £200,000.
A few days after the court found Taylor’s lawyer, he got a call from Salford asking about his chances of making it to the Super League.
He jumped at the chance, and even though getting his family to move to the other side of the world to play for a different club and in a different game presented its own challenges, they were ones he enjoyed facing.
Taylor said, “I didn’t really think I’d ever come here or play in the Super League, but I got the chance.” “Everyone is in a different situation when they leave the NRL. Some come here because they have to because they can’t find anything else, but I was glad to come here to try out something new and different.
“Getting out of your comfort zone can sometimes give you a new lease on life. I remember my most memorable day was when I was getting ready at Salford. I had to do the right thing for the players.
“I’d been at Wests Tigers for a long time, and I’d never had to show off my skills because they knew how I played and who I was. But here, it was great and exciting, and at that point in my career, it was what I wanted.”
Taylor is now part of what he thinks of as a very close Red Devils team, and he understands that there is a culture at the AJ Bell Stadium that lets players talk about their own experiences without fear of being judged.
That’s a sign that rugby association has led the way in changing people’s ideas about mental health, not just among the players but also in the networks it’s important for, networks that Taylor has found to be very similar no matter where in the world he’s played.
Taylor said, “Rugby association is a popular game and a sport with a strong sense of culture.” “It’s the same in New Zealand, and it’s also the same in Sydney.
“The Rugby Association local area around the world is based on similar roots. It’s strange how it works out that way, but it makes us unique, and it’s great to see that we’re at the forefront of emotional health issues, since they’re so important.
“Since rugby union is such a tough, macho, and gladiatorial game, you wouldn’t think players would have to go through stuff like this. However, it’s the exact opposite. It’s great that the Rugby Association is leading the way in everything.
“Giving it more attention or talking about it will help anyone who is going through it, because then they will want to connect with it too. If I can do anything to help that
or share some experiences, it will help someone, and I’m excited to make it happen.”