IN CAMERON McCarthy's first pre-season at Greater Western Sydney, he was nursing a sore foot and readying himself for a stint in defence.
A year later, things are different, and after a full summer on the track he is right in coach Leon Cameron's mind as an option for the Giants' round one forward line.
The 19-year-old's two games in the NAB Challenge have been encouraging. He has finished both with three goals, showed his tidy goalkicking, and presented as a slightly different option in attack for the club.
The Giants plan to play their best team in the final round of the pre-season competition against the Sydney Swans, and Cameron said they would spend plenty of time debating where McCarthy fits in.
"He's an exciting young talent and it's fantastic that he's on our list," Cameron said after the game.
"He's one of those dynamic players and he's going to go up and down in the next year or two because he's just a young tall who's only been playing footy for so many years. But what he's shown the last two weeks has been particularly pleasing in backing up the pre-season he's had.
"He's thrown a spanner in the works, which is really good to have. He's put his hand up and we've got to look to reward that effort."
McCarthy played one game in his first season, making his AFL debut in the Giants' final-round win over the Western Bulldogs. It gave him a glimpse of things to come, and another reason to push even harder during the pre-season.
"I feel much better prepared. I've had a pretty big pre-season after an interrupted one last year, so I've got good confidence in my body and feel ready to run out games," he told AFL.com.au.
"It gives you belief you'll be able to match it with the elite level players and keep running and running. That's my role for the team – as long as I can keep running around and creating some play then I'll be happy.
"I was pretty rapt to get that last game and it gave me a taste. That's the level I want to play every week and it's a really good standard."
McCarthy gives the Giants a different option near goal. Where some of their tall forward options are better playing closer to goal, McCarthy enjoys moving up the ground and then beating his opponent back.
He's lean but strong enough, and is a confident mark over his head. It only takes him a few opportunities to make an impact, too, as an excellent set-shot.
The Giants knew before they picked McCarthy at No.14 in the 2013 NAB AFL Draft that he was a reliable kick: in one under-18s game for Western Australia, he kicked the match-winning goal after the siren.
He continues to improve his technique, but know it is a strength as he fights for a spot in the Giants' line-up.
"I've worked on it pretty hard over the pre-season, especially with blokes like Devon Smith and Jeremy Cameron. They're really good mentors to me and I can't wait to learn more from them," he said.
"Jimmy Stewart's had a ripper pre-season, Andrew Phillips has as well, so there's really good competition up forward and it's good to have people fighting for spots every week if you're going to have a strong team."