Dave Taylor will be on trial for his NRL survival in Canberra’s only pre-season hit-out as he bids to be given one last shot at returning to the big time.
Coach Ricky Stuart said Taylor’s performance in Saturday night’s match against Newcastle in Queanbeyan would be crucial to whether he offered the former State of Origin star a full-time contract.
“He’s done everything we’ve asked of him off the field, it’s just down to performance on the field,” Stuart told AAP.
Taylor joined Canberra on a train-and-trial basis in the off-season after being cut by Catalans Dragons one year into a two-year deal with the Super League club.
He was embroiled in the Gold Coast cocaine scandal and last year avoided a conviction after pleading guilty to drug possession charges.
“He’s put himself into a difficult situation and he knows that,” Stuart said.
“He’s working his way around it to get through it and I compliment him on that, but now we’ve got to see him play good footy.”
Any contract offered to him by Canberra would need to be ticked off by the NRL with the integrity unit able to impose sanctions or conditions on Taylor.
The giant forward has shed 9kg during the pre-season in an attempt to shake allegations of laziness which have followed him through his career with the Titans, South Sydney and Brisbane.
“He’s absolutely worked his butt off,” Stuart said.
“Like every other player, the challenge is around the corner now.
“His challenge is tomorrow night and I hope he does really well.”
Potential Raiders teammates Aidan Sezer and Luke Bateman, who are also part of the 32-man squad set to face Newcastle, have also backed Taylor’s attitude on the training track.
Taylor has played eight State of Origin games and one Test and could add more size to the Raiders’ monster forward pack as they push for their first premiership since 1994.