Sam Taylor was drafted with pick 28 in the 2017 NAB AFL Draft
COMPARING anyone to Alex Rance sits a little uneasily with Greater Western Sydney football boss Wayne Campbell.
Campbell, a former Tigers star, worked in development at Richmond in Rance’s formative years, well before he became a four-time All Australian and the game’s best defender.
It’s left Campbell in a good position to comment on whatever likeness there might be between Rance and another emerging backman, Giant Sam Taylor.
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Taylor, 19, is the round 17 NAB AFL Rising Star nominee, coincidentally for his performance against 28-year-old Rance’s Tigers in a crucial GWS win at Spotless Stadium on Saturday night.
Campbell stopped short of labelling Taylor the second coming of Rance – knowing the burden that would place upon him – but sees similarities between the pair.
“Sam’s one of those rare beasts who’s very quietly spoken but becomes a competitive beast once he gets on the field,” Campbell told AFL.com.au.
“He hates to be beaten, so that is like Alex Rance. They’re both reasonably thoughtful and quietly spoken.
“I think Sam’s got a bit of Dylan Grimes about him – he has really good speed, seems to be able to make up ground, and has really good courage, so he can spoil the ball, then win it at ground level.
“He understands when he’s got the ball he needs to be a bit conservative with it, so he’s got a good understanding of his all-round game.”
In a twist, both Taylor and Rance attended Perth-based Guildford Grammar School and played for Swan Districts in the WAFL – a decade apart – before making the leap into the AFL scene.
Unprompted, Taylor revealed he styled himself on the Richmond champion.
“He’s a very dominant backman, he reads the play well, is competitive and doesn’t like getting beaten, which I try to model my game off,” Taylor said.
“He’s a Guildford and Swan Districts boy like me, so I look up to him quite a bit.”
The 196cm teenager’s ability to play the past six games for a Giants side in the thick of the finals race is evidence of how far he has come.
He thought as recently as two years ago that him playing AFL was a pipedream, but so highly do Campbell and co rate him that he was considered a potential match-up for Dustin Martin.
Taylor, who lives with teammates Jack Buckley and Nick Shipley, arrived in the hustle and bustle of Sydney fresh off a 120-acre farm at Bullsbrook, about an hour out of Perth.
He is the product of a large, sport-obsessed family, including five brothers – Josh, 23, Zac, 21, Ben, 17, Luke, 15, and Tom, 13 – and his 10-year-old sister Brooke.
Ben is playing for Swan Districts’ Colts team and shares his sibling’s AFL ambition.
“Growing up we had a lot of backyard battles,” Taylor said.
“We’re from a little town and we had pigs, cows and sheep, which always kept us busy.
“We actually have almost football-sized posts in our backyard and we played footy, cricket, basketball and soccer – we played most sports.”
Playing in the AFL became a reality for Taylor when he earned a spot in late 2016 in the NAB AFL Academy, designed to introduce the most promising talents in the country to the game’s elite level.
He went on to earn All Australian selection at last year’s AFL Under-18 Championships, and GWS gleefully snapped him up with pick 28 in what so far looks an impressive draft haul.
Taylor is now just as invested in the Giants fighting for a finals berth as his newest mentor, co-captain and fellow key defender Phil Davis.
“I chucked my fists in the air after (Saturday’s) game and was hugging the person next to me, because the pressure was enormous,” he said.
“Richmond are a great team and it was a great battle. I feel like we’re a great team, too, and a real threat in September.”
Source: AFL FOOTBALL NEWS