Eels call on Taylor to help stop rot
Return of a familiar face ... Jason Taylor, seen here during an Eels training run in 2006. Photo: Steve Christo
JASON TAYLOR is set to heed an SOS from Parramatta officials to help the embattled club in a coaching capacity.
The Sun-Herald can reveal Taylor - the Roosters under-20s coach - has met Eels powerbrokers, who are desperate to help besieged coach Stephen Kearney. It is understood Taylor is likely to be an assistant coach, although some officials want him to be a coaching director. The club is expected to rubber-stamp the appointment today or tomorrow. The move is in response to a horror 1-8 start, the Eels' worst opening to a season in more than 50 years.
It won't be the first time Taylor has answered the call for the blue-and-golds. At the behest of then-coach Brian Smith, Taylor wore the No.7 jersey for the Eels in 2001, leading the team to a number of regular-season records and a grand final appearance. And when Smith's 10-year coaching tenure at the club ended abruptly midway through 2006, Taylor took over as caretaker.
From a seemingly impossible position, Taylor steered the Eels into the finals, finishing with a 10 from 16 record in his first attempt with the clipboard in the NRL. The former halfback also fast-tracked the career of Jarryd Hayne, throwing him into first grade with immediate success. However, he was overlooked for the post full-time the following season in favour of Michael Hagan.
Taylor then took South Sydney to their only finals appearance in more than two decades. Taylor, a Sun-Herald columnist, was unavailable for comment last night. Parramatta chairman Roy Spagnolo and his board have been agonising over how to assist the Eels out of their slump, which extends back to playing off for the wooden spoon last season.
Taylor appeals partly because of his own credentials as a halfback. In a glittering 12-year career with Wests, Norths, Northern Eagles and the Eels, he smashed a number of appearance and scoring records, and won the Rothmans Medal in 1996.
Kearney has been unable to solve the riddle of Chris Sandow, the $550,000 recruit brought in with much fanfare. After dropping Sandow to NSW Cup for a week, Kearney only brought him off the bench when the game was already lost against the Bulldogs on Friday night. Taylor, who worked closely with Sandow at Redfern, could be the man to get the best out of the enigmatic playmaker.
Canterbury coach Des Hasler said he felt for Kearney, who has an abysmal record of only seven wins from 33 games since taking over as head coach last year. ''It's a tough time that Stephen and the club are going through at the moment,'' Hasler said. ''They've got to stick by him. The only way they can get out of it is to stick together and ride it out.''
In some rare good news for Eels fans, scans cleared star centre Willie Tonga of a serious ankle injury yesterday. Tonga, who is also battling a left shoulder injury from Friday's loss, left the field in the 67th minute with initial fears the 28-year-old could miss the remainder of the season. Eels officials are confident Tonga will play in the away clash against Canberra on Sunday.
Reni Maitua was placed on report for a collecting Michael Ennis high in Friday's loss. ''Mick took a bit of a turnover and made half a break,'' Maitua said. ''I was just going in to tackle him and obviously when I got called over by the ref I [had] clipped him a bit high. I'm sure he would have stayed down a bit longer to milk a penalty - we all know Mick's a bit of a character. But I'm mates with him and I apologised..''
with Michael Carayannis