Despite being one of the most heavily sought after signatures in the NFNL post-season, Kilmore senior men’s star Bailey Taylor-Egan is ecstatic to remain with the Blues in 2023 and is even more determined to make Kilmore a premiership contender.
Taylor-Egan produced an outstanding 2022 campaign for the Blues, kicking 34 goals in 15 games, being named his in his side’s best in six of those matches, as well as making his first Team of the Year appearance, being selected at centre half forward.
As a result, the 22-year-old garnered plenty of interest from other clubs throughout the off-season, however the Blues confirmed his home would remain at J.J. Clancy Reserve last December.
There were multiple factors that swayed Taylor-Egan’s decision to stay at Kilmore, one of those being the appointment of his brother Benjamin as President of the club.
“It’s my 15th year now at the club and especially with my brother taking on the presidency, it just felt right to stick around,” he said.
“We just got so close to the ultimate success last year and I feel like we can take it that one step further and with a new coaching direction, the boys are more enthusiastic than ever.
“It just felt right to stay and re-commit to a place that I love and has welcomed me with open arms every year.”
Taylor-Egan revealed that multiple clubs were chasing his signature ahead of the 2023 campaign, with West Preston-Lakeside being one club that put forward a strong case.
However, after plenty of thought, he believed that sticking with the Blues would allow him to develop his game to a whole new level.
“There was interest from other places, and I did meet with a few teams, especially West Preston-Lakeside, just because I have history with them, my father and brother played in a premiership there and they’ve been a strong club for so many years now,” he said.
“There was definitely a bit of a desire and there may well be in the future, but at the end of the day, it was easy to go to Kilmore.
“I played a good year last year and may have drawn the attention of other teams, but I feel like another year to build on my development in Division 3 is the best thing for me because I can’t just be based off one year.
“I’d like to just get those consistent performances under my belt before I make any other decisions. I’m happy with Kilmore, that’s where I want to be and that’s the mindset at the moment.”
Taylor-Egan played just five senior games and nine matches in total during his first two years of senior football but has since gone on to play 25 of a possible 31 games in the previous two seasons.
Last year particularly was one that the Team of the Year forward believed he needed to make count in order to progress his senior footballing career.
“I just had such an injury prone career leading up to last season and it was the first year that I finally felt that I could achieve that I wanted to achieve,” he said.
“I could reach the potential from years past that I showed in glimpses, but obviously with Covid affected seasons and injury affected seasons, I just thought it was my time to shine.
“I wanted to be a matchwinner, I wanted to take those big marks and kick goals and just be a leader on the field, it didn’t have to be a verbal thing but, I just wanted to play every game like I had something to prove because I felt like I did.”
The Blues will enter the 2023 season with a new leader after their coach of seven years in Nathan Phillips called time on his tenure at J.J. Clancy Reserve prior to the club’s finals campaign last year.
His replacement is senior assistant and former Mernda senior men’s coach Paul Derrick who has been at Kilmore since 2020.
Taylor-Egan had nothing but praise for the incoming mentor, saying his footballing brain is an asset that will not only benefit his own development but will help the entire side become better footballers.
“I’ve had a great rapport with Dezzy (Derrick) for a number of years now, he’s a ripper bloke and he understands the game as well as anybody that I’ve seen through the football system,” he said.
“I played against him when he was coaching at Mernda and now to have him lead us is another reason that I decided to stay at the club, just because I was so excited to work under him.”
This year will be Kilmore’s eighth season in the NFNL competition since joining from the RDFNL and despite finishing in the top four in back-to-back campaigns, they are yet to register a finals win.
The Blues started 5-1 last year and for the first time since crossing to the league in 2016, they saw themselves on top of the ladder in Round 6, however, they would only go on to win six of their next 12 games before falling to Old Eltham Collegians by 21 points in the first semi-final.
There’s a burning desire to claim that elusive finals win according to Taylor-Egan, adding that some structural changes have made him confident that Kilmore will be a premiership contender in 2023.
“It obviously hurt us last year, we thought it was our best chance possible, we had a lot of old guys where we knew it would be their last run, but I feel like we got a lot younger and a lot quicker this year which is the way the game’s evolved,” he said.
“You look at teams like Old Eltham and Laurimar, they’re so pace driven, and it worked well for them, they played their best footy on dry days and I feel like with our younger side this year, it’s really what we’re building towards.
“Especially in stages in that first final, we were exposed to Old Eltham by how quick they were, and I feel like we’ve learnt from that, we’ve developed a new game style that’s going suit our quick young runners and it’s exciting to hopefully see it come to fruition.”
Kilmore face 2022 minor premiers Laurimar in their opening game of the season at Laurimar Reserve.