AFL draft hopeful Elijah Taylor doing it for his grandfathers


But to simply list those related to Taylor would be to undersell the formative bonds, without which he mightn’t have reached the cusp of the big time.

In particular, Taylor’s two grandfathers have played key roles in guiding him along his at-times challenging personal journey.

Elijah’s paternal grandfather Dennis Taylor is a pastor.

Elijah moved in with Dennis and Elijah’s grandmother Valda earlier this year.

“He’s always been there to support me. Paying for footy fees, making sure that I have money for travel,” Elijah says, softly, like pretty much every word he utters.

Dennis’ work had earlier taken him to Melbourne and then Karratha, in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

“We grew up in church. Pretty much went almost every Sunday as a child until about year four, when they left to move over [to Melbourne].”

Taylor wants to improve his consistency in tackling.Credit:Tony McDonough

Elijah’s late maternal grandfather, Ricky Narkle, lived in Narrogin.

He died in the fortnight before Elijah’s primary school graduation, but left a profound impact on his grandson.

“I just want to play footy at the highest level because my pop, he’s passed away, he taught me stuff. He always wanted to see me achieve my goals and stuff. I just want to do what I can to make AFL and make him proud,” Elijah said.

Elijah took some paper from his grandfather’s funeral back. He keeps it by his bedside, and it was in his hotel room during last month’s AFL draft combine.

“We were pretty close,” Elijah said.

“I take his eulogy wherever I go. He was just a really good bloke, and he taught me a few tricks. When I was younger, I always had the footy in my hand. I was always kicking the footy. At my backyard, there was a gap in the tree. I used to just kick from about 20 metres out, both feet, just trying to get better and better. It got to the point where he got a shovel and we just tried to hit the shovel from about 20 metres out, both feet. I was about 12. Torpedoes, snaps, every kick, trying to get as good as I can be.”

Those skills honed in the backyard are those that tantalise AFL club recruiters and have carried Elijah into calculations for a selection as early as the back end of the first round next week.

Loading

A Collingwood supporter as a kid, Taylor’s hero was Leon Davis, on whose game he tried to model his own.

“Quick, good goal sense, athletic,” Elijah says when asked to describe his on-field strengths.

He is keen to improve his tackling and two-way running, but that’s not to say the lightly framed teenager doesn’t welcome the physical side of the game.

“Tackling is a little bit about technique, but it’s also about a mindset as well,” Taylor said.

“Sometimes I have it and sometimes I don’t. I’m just trying to get it permanently. Sometimes I get a little bit lazy, but if I want to drill the bloke I’ll drill them.

“I like doing bumps. One bloke dislocated his shoulder when I was younger. I think I was 14. He was a bit bigger but I just sprinted at him. I lined him up.”

He is talented on the basketball court, too. He enjoys playing pick-up games with mates. Does he generally win? “Of course,” he smirks, endearingly.

Taylor’s basketball skill ended up getting his agent Tom Seccull of Hemisphere Management Group into trouble.

“I went for a block, he was going for a lay-up and there was a little bit of contact, and he banged his head on the pole,” Taylor says.

Loading

Seccull laughs about his cautionary tale, but is serious when he praises Taylor for the way he’s handled himself through some turbulent times off the field, about which clubs are aware but unlikely to be deterred by.

“Elijah’s no different to any other kid. Every kid has their own circumstances and challenges that they go through. Some bigger than others. But how Elijah’s gone about it on-field to go past that, and the way he’s performed, has been a credit to himself,” Seccull said.

“Some of the things he does in games, you just sit back and just go ‘wow’.

“He’s a genuine, thoughtful kid with a lot of care inside of him. He can come across as quite shy at times however in most circumstances he’s just taking his time thinking about his answer.”

Elijah is proud of his heritage. Having graduated from Perth’s Lynwood Senior High last year, he ventured to several Indigenous football carnivals in between the end of this year’s WAFL season and the draft.

“I just want to play footy at the highest level and be a role model to younger [Indigenous] people.

“There’s a few that could play AFL but have other stuff in their way. Off-field stuff.”

Most Viewed in Sport

Loading



AFL

Related posts

Make a comment