Second-year Giant Sam Taylor has been selected in the 40-man 22Under22 squad for the first time in his career. He caught up with AFLPlayers.com.au to discuss the achievement, his season to date, and what is was like to grow up on a farm in WA playing football with his siblings.
Kavisha Di Pietro: How would you assess your 2019 season? You’re only 20-years-old but you have become a mainstay in the Giants’ back six.
Sam Taylor: It’s been a good, solid season. I’m really enjoying it and having the opportunity to play on some good opposition players, which is helping me to learn and grow as a player.
Who has been the most challenging opponent you’ve faced this year?
Good question, it’s a tough one. Each week I’m learning new things and go away from a game ready to focus on my next opponent so it’s almost like you start to forget people you played on three or four weeks ago because you’re thinking ahead. If I had to name one though, it would probably be Jack Darling. He’s the type of player who is always in a dangerous position (irrespective of where he is on the ground) and it’s hard to drop off him so it’s quite a concentrated game because you don’t want to lose focus. The moment you do (lose focus) when playing on him is when he can cause the most damage.
You’re 196cm but lightly built so you are giving up a little bit of size on players like Darling. Do you find that to be one of the biggest challenges to overcome or is it a matter of trusting your ability as a defender?
I definitely have to change my game a little bit because often my opposition will be a bit stronger than me. In those situations it’s about being able to get off my man, run and jump and try to intercept the footy. I’m playing my own way at the moment and it’s about trying to attack the contest in a different way.
You also recently re-signed with the Giants. You’re a long way from home being a WA boy but what was the appeal about staying here in Sydney?
I love life in Sydney. It’s a great environment. The boys are great, the culture is great and it’s a family club. I’m really looking forward to the bright future that the club has. I think the bit I love most about being here is my teammates. We all get along so well and it makes it better running out each week when you care for every other guy that’s on the field with you. The culture here makes you want to play harder and stronger each week to get the best out of yourself.
You’ve been holding down more of a defensive post this year and 2019 has been a bit of a coming of age year for you. How have you found your development as a key position player since arriving to the club in the 2017 draft?
When I first arrived to the club I only weighed 86kg but now I’m closer to 93kg so I’ve put on a fair bit of size in two years. I’ve been focusing on making sure my body is right because early on in my first year I was suffering from soft tissue injuries and couldn’t find that continuity as a result, which was really frustrating. You always pick up little things each session from the older boys and they’re always there to help you out and make sure you’re getting the best out of yourself. It makes it a lot easier to be comfortable in the role I’m playing because I know I’ve got the support of the senior guys around me.
Who has been a mentor for you in that space?
Definitely Phil Davis. He’s helped me significantly and is always watching out for me on and off-the-field. He’s constantly giving me little tips and advice to help me through.
You grew up on a 117-acre property in WA. What was it like growing up there? Completely different to the hustle and bustle of Sydney life I imagine…
It’s very different! Growing up, it was much quieter and relaxed. Living on so much acreage, there were animals everywhere, you’d go out on your motorbike whereas here it’s bumper-to-bumper traffic and there’s always so much going on.
How did football become part of your life? From what I understand being one of seven, you’d set up your own games in the backyard?
We were a very sporty family. Growing up we were always playing basketball, cricket, soccer, footy, you name it. As a family, we’re very competitive and I think that’s where I get it from. The want to beat each other is where that drive comes from. I’ve got one sister who’s the youngest so you can imagine what it was like playing against five other boys. Our parents set up proper-sized goal posts in our backyard and it became a good way for us to practice in our free time. I’ve turned into a defender now but I like to think my set-shot goal-kicking is pretty good (laughs).
Can you take me through your friendship with Fremantle’s Griffin Logue? You’ve said previously he was a bit of a mentor for you growing up and being a year above you…
Griffin and I played Colts footy together at Swan Districts and we also went to school together. In my bottom-age year he would take me to state training and our club training so seeing him get drafted made my dream feel within reach. It gave me a lot of confidence that it could happen for me too because I’d actually known someone who had realised their dream. Prior to that, I wasn’t very confident and wasn’t sure if it could happen. It was a dream that felt really distant and unachievable. Seeing Griffin get drafted gave me a lot of confidence to just get it done.
Did you have any expectation on yourself then when you arrived at the Giants to fit into their best-22?
Arriving here, to be honest, I had no idea what was going to happen. I probably didn’t expect to be playing week-after-week in my second-year but I think that’s where my competitiveness came into play. I want to keep getting better and better and beat the person next to me and do the best that I can.
That’s all from me, Sam. Thanks for your time and good luck with making the final 22Under22 team.
Thanks for the chat, Kavisha.