How mental demons haunted Ash Taylor in year from hell
Ash Taylor has hit out at suggestions he wants to return to Brisbane, with the star playmaker revealing he wants to sign a new deal with the Gold Coast as payback for supporting him through the worst ordeal of his career.
Taylor's energetic display at last week's Nines was evidence the Titans' $1 million man is refreshed in body and mind following his shock decision to briefly walk away from rugby league last season.
The Titans granted Taylor compassionate leave to deal with some mental demons and upon his return, the Queensland Origin hopeful received psychological help which he plans to continue this season.
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During his darkest days last year, Taylor was linked with a return to the Broncos, the club at which he started his NRL career, in a bid to rediscover his passion for the game.
But in the wake of his promising showing at the NRL Nines, helping the Titans to $95,000 in prizemoney for making the semi-finals, Taylor declared he wants to extend his tenure at the Gold Coast beyond next year.
Asked if he ever considered quitting the Titans to reunite with the Broncos, Taylor said: "I never thought about a change (of club).
"I went away from four days from training and I was back in the next week getting professional help.
"I love the club. I have loved it ever since I was a young bloke. It had nothing to do with the Titans. I took a bit of time away but the club wasn't the problem - it was me.
"I needed to sort myself out and now I am putting my preparation and everything into the Titans.
"I really have to give back to the Titans. I am working hard with Justin (Holbrook, new Titans coach) and the boys and trying to get better. I can't finish any worse than last year so I want to work hard this year and give it a real shake."
Taylor is entering a critical midpoint of his career. He turns 25 next month and can celebrate his 100th NRL game this season if he stays fit and chalks up 20 appearances.
Taylor looked relaxed and energised in Perth and there is a reason for his mental rejuvenation. At the heart of his contentment is his first child, a nine-week-old son he and his partner named Oscar.
His name is printed on Taylor's mouthguard in bright pink lettering.
"I think it's what I needed. I think it's why God sent him down to me, I treasure him and take every day that comes," Taylor said.
"I feel awesome. I have a reason now to play footy and look after myself in the future.
"We brought Oscar over for the Nines. It is a massive change in my life and people are really happy for me. Time flies when you are having a kid. It's only nine weeks now. They grow up so quick so I want to be there for him and see him all the way through."
Taylor says he was never formally diagnosed with depression, but hopes his willingness to speak openly of his mental health challenges can help other men harbouring dark thoughts.
"It was never depression," he said.
"It all got to me last year. I was treating it like a job rather than loving it as a game.
"It was tough, the toughest part of my life that I have to deal with so far. Being away from my family didn't help as well, so I have my young son now and I want to do it for him and my little family and just keep going.
"I am trying to bring the fun back into my game and enjoy myself again this year. I just needed to get back to my happy self and I needed help to do that. I want to let everyone know it's not easy.
"It is OK to come out and say you have mental health problems and hopefully I can inspire people to ask for help before anything else happens."