As Curtis Taylor sat at Marvel Stadium hoping for his name to be called in round one of the 2018 NAB AFL Draft, the North Melbourne recruiting team were hoping he would slide.
North Melbourne had already selected Academy player Tarryn Thomas with pick No. 8, matching Adelaide’s bid and did not have another selection until later in the draft.
It was unlikely the Calder Cannons product, who had been touted as a first round selection, was going to slide but as is the unlikely nature of the AFL Draft when he was still available in the third round, North Melbourne traded up the order to secure Taylor with pick No. 46.
Although North Melbourne Head of Development Gavin Brown wasn’t involved in the recruiting process, it was obvious that the club had recruited a special player from the reaction of North Melbourne’s recruiting staff.
“Internally, the recruiters were really excited to get him where they did and I think that in itself tells a bit of a story,” Brown told aflplayers.com.au following Taylor’s Round 5 Rising Star nomination.
“When he first stepped into the footy club he had a hell of a lot of potential, but it’s been quite a remarkable journey because he’s come such a long way in such a short period.”
Taylor showed glimpses of his potential with the club’s VFL affiliate last season, but struggled to cement himself in North Melbourne’s best 22.
He earned a senior debut in Round 8 against Geelong, but was dropped the following round and did not earn senior selection again until late in the season (Round 17).
A player with the tendency to be a ‘flash in the pan’ in his first season, Brown said Taylor returned from the end of season break a new player.
“It was like the penny just dropped,” Brown said of Taylor’s pre-season attitude.
“He came back a better version of himself, really professional with his outlook on training, his intensity went through the roof and everyone was talking about him.”
Working closely with North Melbourne forwards coach Jade Rawlings, Taylor has spent time tapping into the knowledge of the former Hawthorn, Western Bulldogs and Kangaroos forward.
In addition to improving his forward craft, Taylor has worked on the defensive aspects of his game to make himself a more well-rounded footballer.
Taylor is the fifth North Melbourne player to earn a Rising Star nomination (Bailey Scott, Tarryn Thomas, Nick Larkey and Cameron Zurhaar) since the start of the 2019 season, highlighting the club’s focus on developing and progressing young talent.
Brown said it’s a testament to coach Rhyce Shaw’s desire to reward those who are working hard, but also the development program’s ability to prepare young players for the elite level.
“When they’re given their opportunity they are really well prepared and not just coming in (to the AFL side) and then flying straight back out,” he said.
“History shows that if guys can do it at VFL-level, they can do it at AFL-level if they want.
“That’s what Curtis has done and now he’s just transferring those skills to the elite level.”
Taylor’s hard work and drive to improve has given Shaw no choice but to select the 20-year-old each week.
On-field, Taylor has a number of strings to his bow that stand out for Brown – his speed, kicking, marking ability and confidence in the air.
But it is off-field where Taylor is most revered around the club.
“Curtis is just a really nice, young man,” Brown said.
“I know that sounds really simple but I think it’s a great compliment.
“If you can come into a football program and someones say that, then you know you’re doing the right thing and it’s a pretty good accolade.”
AFL RISING STAR NOMINEES IN 2020
Round 1 — Sam Sturt (Fremantle)
Round 5 — Curtis Taylor (North Melbourne)