GREATER Western Sydney defender Sam Taylor is grateful to be tackling the game's best forwards after last year's frightening health scare, when the adage about learning to walk before you can run proved true.
Taylor hardly featured in analysis of the Giants' woes in 2020, when he was hospitalised after round four and eventually diagnosed with septic arthritis.
The 21-year-old's importance, currently amplified by Phil Davis' calf injury, is perhaps best reflected by the fact he may play on Western Bulldogs Marcus Bontempelli and Aaron Naughton at different stages of Friday night's clash in Canberra.
Or that he was asked to stop his childhood idol Lance Franklin in the recent derby.
Taylor admitted he was rattled during his first match against the four-time Coleman medallist.
"There was definitely a bit of chat, back and forth," Taylor said.
"Well, more me taking it.
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"I'd never played on a player like him, he's just amazing.
"So impressive. I didn't realise he was so strong, even though I've watched him play so many times.
"It was a great experience.
"I did lose my cool a bit in the last quarter. I was over it, I just wanted to beat him badly."
Franklin booted five goals on Saturday, but Giants coach Leon Cameron praised Taylor's fight and final quarter.
"Some kids can drop their head, but Sammy is the other way," Cameron said.
Taylor is relishing every contest this season, having lost 10 kilograms and the capacity to walk during the low point of his struggles with a painful and debilitating bacterial infection in his wrist, ankle, hip and back last year.
"You appreciate it a lot more," Taylor said.
"I was told it's very, very rare to happen to such a young and healthy person. To also happen in different areas of my body, the doctors said they'd never seen it before.
"The club was extra cautious. It took me a good six or seven months to get through it all - get the weight back on, turn my glutes back on. It was a crazy journey."
Taylor has passed on his insight to Michael Hurley, urging the Essendon veteran to take things slowly in his own recovery from a hip infection.
"I gave him the full rundown, what I did wrong. I was very happy to; it's a stressful journey," the GWS backman said.
"I remember reaching a point where I was walking OK, but not really that well. I was like 'yeah, I can run'.
"I tried to push through the pain, even though it was excruciating. I ran for about one kilometre then I couldn't walk properly for the next three days."