Back when his AFL dream was too far away to reach, Sam Taylor used to soak up as much information from those around him as possible.
Playing in the colts for Swan Districts, Taylor used to receive lifts to and from the club from Griffin Logue, who would eventually be drafted to Fremantle a year before this week’s rising star nominee was selected by the Giants.
A star junior athlete, Logue was the epitome of professionalism from a young age, and Taylor acted as a sponge, extracting any relevant advice he could find.
“Griffin was one of the best junior basketballers and rowers, had all the physical attributes and was dedicated,” his agent, Andrew McDougall told AFLPlayers.com.au. “Sam spoke to him about how to get to the next level.”
Growing up on a 117-acre property in Bullsbrook, Western Australia, Taylor’s early life revolved around sport and family. With seven children, the Taylors had goal posts set up in their backyard for their kids to practice, and sent the youngster to Guildford Grammar School.
Heading into the 2017 National Draft, a number of clubs were interested in the rangy defender. He interviewed with 16 of the 18 clubs, with GWS, Sydney, Geelong and West Coast showing the most interest.
His identified range was always going to be around the 20-30 mark, the only question was how far he was likely to move. The answer was Breakfast Point, New South Wales.
“The day after the draft, I jumped on a plane and met his family on that Saturday afternoon,” Brett Hand, the Giants’ Head of Development and Welfare told AFLPlayers.com.au.
“It is always important that his mum and dad know who is taking him away from Perth and what is to be expected.”
As things go in this day and age, players are swiftly selected, and before they know it, have moved into a new city or suburb within days of their dreams being realised.
The Giants felt comfortable selecting the WA product knowing that he had no issues moving away from home, but the overriding emotion was surprise when Hand and Giants officials spent a few hours with him and the family the day after the draft in Bullsbrook.
“He was shocked, and he was also realistic that he was a long way away from playing senior football,” Hand explained.
When watching Taylor playing in the WAFL and the National Championships, members of the Giants were impressed with how strong his play was, but also surprised at how different he is away from the football ground.
He is described as a ‘competitive beast’ when in the footballing sanctuary, and quiet, humble and shy away from the spotlight, but that has not halted his progress in building relationships with his new teammates.
Like at many AFL clubs, the younger players gravitate towards each other, and due to his living situation, Taylor is naturally close with the first and second-year players.
But he has built relationships with his defensive counterparts in Phil Davis and Aidan Corr. Defensive coach Mark McVeigh has created a ‘brotherhood’ in the defensive group, where it doesn’t matter how many games you’ve played.
Fast forward to now, and Sam Taylor may have cemented himself in a finals-bound team after a slow start to their 2018 campaign.
Debuting in a famous Round 11 win at the Adelaide Oval against the Crows, a game where the 19-year-old performed one of the most important individual acts to stifle what seemed like a certain goal for Darcy Fogarty in the last term, Taylor has steadily grown with more time and experience at senior level.
He has played on the likes of Luke Breust, Eric Hipwood, Sam Day and Jeremy McGovern in just six games and has gained invaluable lessons from all, and has been able to display an important ability to play on both tall and small forwards.
“Each game he brings something different that we didn’t know he could do,” Hand mentioned.
“We will see more intercept marks in the next year or two. He loves to run and take the game on and he has the capacity to do that.”
However, with just six rounds until finals, and the Giants pressing for a third consecutive post-season berth, Sam Taylor may have to display those attributes a little quicker than expected.