IF THOSE in the footy world outside of Sydney needed a reminder of Tim Taranto's standing amongst the competition's brightest young talents, his performance against Richmond last week was it.
Taranto, Greater Western Sydney's top pick at the 2016 NAB AFL draft (No. 2 overall), played a highly influential role in his side's crucial two-point win over the premiers at Spotless Stadium.
The 20-year-old booted two goals in as many minutes midway through the third quarter to give the home side a game-high 24-point lead, but it was his massive final term that helped GWS topple the Tigers.
Richmond has been a last-quarter phenom this season, and the Tigers came hard at the Giants in a bid to end their winless streak outside of Victoria in 2018. But Taranto was one of his side's most important figures as the home side hung on.
Matched up against the likes of Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin, Kane Lambert and Dion Prestia, Taranto had seven possessions, five of those contested, three clearances and two score assists.
He said taking on the big-name Tigers played a role in his inspiring last term.
"I love competing against those boys. You get a bit more energy when you're trying to beat the best players and the best team in the competition," he said.
Taranto's efforts might have been overshadowed by some of his higher-profile teammates, but coach Leon Cameron said that wasn't the case inside the walls at the Giants.
"He's got a huge will to help his teammates get over the line," Cameron said.
"He's blessed with an enormous engine and he can run all day, he's got the capability to match the running output of (Lachie) Whitfield and (Tom) Scully.
"But equally he's got that competitive side, so he goes in and wins his own footy, he can play a number of positions, and he accepts his role every week.
"The most pleasing thing as a coach is that he's the ultimate team player.
"We're rapt with the way he's heading, and each week he's getting better and better."
A serious ankle injury that required surgery cost Taranto 10 games and any chance of winning last season's NAB AFL Rising Star award, but he hasn't missed a match this year, and has churned out some impressive numbers.
Taranto has averaged 21.1 disposals and 4.1 clearances in 16 matches and is a chance to break Josh Kelly's club record of 156 tackles in a season (2017), with his average of 6.2 per game.
Taranto said his footy education couldn't be in better hands at the Giants with gun teammates like Kelly and Ward, Stephen Coniglio and Dylan Shiel, plus former St Kilda great and GWS midfield coach Lenny Hayes helping him every day.
"Josh is obviously a superstar and I'm just happy getting to run alongside him and 'Cogs', 'Wardy' and 'Shiely' and those guys, it's been great fun for me," he said.
"I'm reviewing my games with them and trying to take as much from them as I can, but Lenny Hayes has been awesome as well.
"We review my training and set goals for each week, so he's been a massive influence for me."
After losing four straight games earlier in the year, the Giants have won five of their past six matches, a run that started with a successful trip to Adelaide Oval when they beat the Crows by 16 points in round 11.
Taranto said there's no real secret to his side's turnaround, and the Giants head back to the same ground in a positive frame of mind that they can get another good result against Port Adelaide on Sunday.
"I think fundamentally we've just been a bit better," he said.
"We went through that form slump and everyone was a bit low on confidence.
"But that confidence is rising, you can see that in our ball movement. Our defence has been pretty good, our tackling has improved, and we've been a bit more resilient as well.
"Everything is building and hopefully that can continue. We've got to win a few more games to consolidate our spot in the finals."