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You certainly don’t have to remind James Taylor how fortunate he is.

Watching on as the waves crash into the bronze sand at Bar Beach, the smile on Taylor’s face says it all. 

And who could blame him.

The sun is shining and the surf is singing, the perfect place to live and ply your trade as a professional footballer. 

In fact, the Knights’ NYC recruit from the Warriors only lives four houses away from the beach. 

It's a spectacular spot and complete contrast to the cold and noisy location of his former place under the Auckland Bridge back home in New Zealand.

"Oh I’m definitely lucky," grins Taylor, sitting on the sand whist overlooking the swell.     

"It’s beautiful down here and just an amazing place by the beach.

"I was living down under the harbour bridge in Auckland. It got cold in the afternoon and quite noisy with all the cars.

"It was a nice place to live though, but nothing compared to this - this is amazing.

"You come down for walks to clear your head and the water is just right there, it's unreal." 

There's no doubting Taylor loves life in Newcastle, but more importantly the Kiwi-born bookend is excelling where it matters on the footy field.

The 19-year-old has only been at the Club for just over a month, but he is already considered a mainstay in coach Mick Crawley's table-topping NYC outfit.  

Talk to 20s trainer Mick Reid and it's Taylor's deep desire to do the hard yards that defines him.        

It's a determined attitude that was well and truly on display on Thursday morning when the Knights' star signing ran through his weekly extras boxing session alongside teammate Jahley Pakau.      

Flanked by Reid and 20s team manager Craig Smith, Taylor underwent a series of boxing drills for a solid hour and let's just say - he didn't hold back.  

"James has been excellent so far," enthuses Reid, struggling to keep his breath after a full-on session.   

"The work ethic that he has brought to the team has been second to none. 

"We've asked for a hard running front-rower and that's exactly what we've got in James. He is exemplary in every thing that he does.

"Like today being down here doing extras at 9am in the morning, so he is willing to work and get better."      

Taylor may be in a good place residing in Newcastle, but flash back to March and this wasn't the case. 

Down and seemingly out after being dropped back to the local Auckland league, just months after playing in the 2013 Holden Cup decider against Penrith, his young career was officially on the rocks.       

Taylor quite easily could have gone backwards at this point, until he received a timely phone call from master mentor Wayne Bennett promoting him to link with the Knights. 

"That was a huge thing," he recalls enthusiastically. 

"When I told my dad, ‘oh Wayne Bennett just called me’, he was like, ‘Oh me god, get on the plane’.

"Wayne told me how beautiful Newcastle was and now I can see what he means.

"But I came to Newcastle for the opportunity to play NRL, that’s the main focus.

"The junior Warriors was a very good team, but I just needed to try something different for myself.

"There are plenty of opportunities to play prop here and that’s my goal." 

If Taylor's application to the red and blue cause is any indication, then he is certainly on track to achieve his first grade dream.   

Just ask Smith, the retired Club legend who has gone out of his way to help the former Warrior in his role as the 20s team manager.

From providing pots and pans through to bed sheets and plenty of insightful footy advice, the Knights' legend is the ideal role model for Taylor.         

"James has such an enthusiasm for the game, but also to do extras and put in the work," Smith explains.

"The beach and location is one of the sells for Newcastle attracting players and he is one of those footballers that have fallen into that category.

"He loves life and his footy is telling that story as well, but he also isn't afraid to roll up the sleeves.  

"That's great, because nothing comes easy - not in this game. 

"The harder you work, the more you get out of it.

"Skill sets are pretty similar across all clubs, but it’s the attitude that you’re looking for.

"And we’ve got a young one in James who has got a great attitude and hopefully he can kick on from this.”

Now happily retired and helping guide the next generation, Smith loves helping out the likes of Taylor with his years of top grade experience and knowledge. 

"It’s wonderful," he grins. 

"Football is a funny game. It has its highs and lows, but it has provided me with a lifestyle and a lifestyle that I’m living all over again.

"I’m still involved in rugby league and helping out the young kids, such as James.

"We seem to be attracting the all the good ones to Newcastle and I think that’s showing in our junior structures and he is certainly one player who can go a long way in the game."

It's a feeling very much replicated by Taylor, who rates Smith as the ultimate mentor and mate. 

"Craig was such a ruthless player, so it’s awesome to learn from him," he beams.

"And he is still fit and he is beating most of the boys, so that’s my goal is to just beat Craig (laughs).

"He has been there and that’s just who I’ve got to be."

On top of Smith's expertise and company, Taylor also has the support of his girlfriend Chelsea - who he lives with in Merewether.

Throw in his dedicated dad Laurie and it's easy to see why this emerging bookend has his feet firmly planted on the ground.   

"Dad is pretty proud, but it’s just different for him seeing me play in a different colour," he admits. 

"He flew over recently to watch my game against the Roosters and found it interesting. 

"I guess it's because I’d been playing for the Warriors for so many years, but he loves the fact that people are treating me so well here.

"He also loves the beach, so he is thinking of selling the place in New Zealand and buying over here in Newcastle too. 

"I can't blame him though, this place is beautiful."