Sky is the limit for “new” flyhalf Tayler Adams

Individually, 2017 couldn’t have gone much better for West Harbour and NSW Country Eagles flyhalf Tayler Adams.

The New Zealand born playmaker had a breakout Shute Shield season for the Pirates this year, winning the Ken Catchpole medal as the competition’s best player, before earning the starting Eagles No.10 jersey for this year’s NRC.

Not bad for a 23-year old who only really started playing flyhalf two years ago.

“I played a little bit of 10 in high school but I was signed at Southland as a halfback. I played all my footy in New Zealand at No.9 and came to Australia as a No.9, but then in my first year at West Harbour they shifted me to flyhalf and I went from there,” Adams told Rugby News.

“Growing up, my favourite player was Dan Carter so I always liked the idea of playing No.10. It means I can kick on the go, attack the line and control the game a lot more and I think that suits my game.”

After growing up in Auckland, Adams signed a development contract with ITM Cup club Southland straight out of high school and made his debut as an 18-year old when several halfbacks ahead of him were injured.

He played five matches in the top grade in 2012 and was picked in the New Zealand U20s squad a year later.

After two more seasons and 19 more ITM Cup appearances, an off contract Adams signed a short term deal with the Greater Sydney Rams in 2015 and linked with West Harbour soon after.

“It was always going to take a year or two to find my feet and learn to play the Australian style of rugby, but I’m really happy with where I am at now,” he said.

The new No.10 showed glimpses of his potential in the Shute Shield and NRC in 2016, but came into his own this year under the guidance of new West Harbour coach Todd Louden.

“Todd brought a lot to the club this year and for me personally, he was always there offering advice, showing me different ways to play the game,” he said.

“I tried to play a more attacking style this year and take the line on a lot more and I think that suited my style of play and helped me grow in confidence throughout the year.”

While Adam’s individual form was solid, the Pirates struggled early this year after a heavily disrupted preseason, winning just one of their first five matches.

“We had a new group, a new coaching staff and a new style of play so it was always going to be tough early on but we improved throughout the season as the group started to buy into the new systems and culture and we showed we could be a real threat towards the end of the season.”

As things began to click for West Harbour, Adams became near untouchable and led the Pirates to seven straight victories at the back end of the regular season.

While that left the Pirates one competition point shy of an illusive finals berth, Adams finished the year as the competition’s leading pointscorer and was awarded the Catchpole Medal just days before the start of the 2017 NRC season.

“Winning the Catchpole Medal was a massive confidence boost. I used that as a bit of motivation to prove that I’m good enough to play at this level and run a team in the NRC,” he said.

But like West Harbour, NSW Country also struggled in the opening weeks of their 2017 campaign and sit six points outside of the top four with three rounds remaining.

“Last year was pretty close to a dream season up until the final and this year, things just didn’t  click early on. It’s certainly not due to a lack of effort, I just think that at crucial times so far this year, we are making costly errors but if we can fix that, we’re not that far off the pace,” Adams said.

“Our shape and structure is starting to come along and we’re a really tight group so if we can fix that execution, I think we can definitely still push towards the finals.”

In round three, Adams kicked a conversion after the full time siren to hand his side a crucial 25-24 victory over Canberra, their first of the season.

“It was a great feeling. I really wanted that win and I felt I owed it to the boys because I threw an intercept earlier in the match. In those last few minutes, I knew if we scored, I’d need to kick the goal so it was in the back of my mind and I was just really glad that I could help get that win and get our season back on track.”

While Adams said his mind is still firmly on the Eagles run towards this year’s NRC finals, the 23-year old admitted there was still plenty that he wanted to achieve in rugby.

“I’ve still got lots of room for improvement as a No.10 but if I can keep developing my skills and game awareness, then hopefully I can get a crack at the next level,” he said.

“I’ve always wanted to play at the highest level and test myself against the best so I want to push myself to play Super Rugby. I’d love to call rugby a job and work on my game full time and I think that’s the only way that I’ll know if I am good enough to play at that level.

“I need to get my body right first though. Super Rugby is a lot more physical and a lot faster so I need to build my strength and improve a few of my key skills. I’m still only fairly new to playing No.10, so I think my game management can still improve as well.”

But if his rate of improvement as a flyhalf is anything to go by, a crack at Super Rugby may not be too far away.

“NRC is the focus at the moment, but once that finishes, I’m excited about getting back down to Concord to start our preparations so that we can start next year with a bang and really give the competition a good crack.”

Adams and the Eagles host Perth Spirit in Tamworth on Saturday afternoon.