It was as if it was lifted from a book or film.

Tim Taranto, in his first game in GIANTS colours, goes back with the flight of the ball. 

Unbeknownst to him; a 196cm, 105kg Swan Lance Franklin is hurtling towards him at full speed.

The two collide.

The crowd lets out a collective groan as the sound of the collision reverberates around Blacktown International SportsPark, before there’s just silence left.

Only the rain heavy rain can be heard as the crowd sits, quietly waiting to see how the younger player responds. 

Does he stay down, or does he get up and prove that he’s ready to mix it with the big boys?

Slowly Taranto rises. The crowd follows suit. He’s passed the test in more ways than one.

End scene. 

Taranto remembers the collision with Franklin from that JLT Community Series game back in 2017 well.

Before he had even played an AFL game, he had earned a reputation as a tough nut; mainly thanks to how he bounced back from that almighty bump. 

“I remember it mostly because the video clip got turned into a meme, all my cousins were sending me videos of me in this meme; they were so happy for me,” he said with a laugh. 

“But it was mostly Shane Mumford’s fault, pushing Franklin into me. 

“Shane still hasn’t bought me those beers yet so I might need to go get stuck into him.”

49 games later, the tag of him being a tough nut hasn’t disappeared.

The 21-year-old is averaging 6.3 tackles and 11.3 contested possessions per game in 2019.

“When I came in here, I knew to play senior footy I needed to be a really good defensive player,” he said.

“I pride myself on that side of my game, but I knew that if I had more opportunity in the midfield, which I’ve been getting, I’d have to win some more ball and be more effective offensively as well. 

“It’s something I’m always working on.”

Taranto, who will play his 50th game when the GIANTS face North Melbourne on Sunday, has indeed been working hard.

The inside midfielder is averaging nearly 10 more disposals per game in 2019 than he was in 2018.

And, while plenty of fuss is being made about his form and his 50th game, Taranto isn’t getting caught up on the milestone. 

“I’ll just be happy to get it over with to be honest and get to 100 games,” he said.

“I’ve been here for two and a half years now and I’ve been able to play a fair few games which I’m very grateful for.

“50 games, I’m pretty proud of that and my family is pretty proud of me for getting there but hopefully I can continue and get a few more under my belt.”

The 2016 number two draft pick’s levelheadedness on the eve of his milestone can be credited those people who are so proud of him. His family.

His mother Jessica is his number one fan and has long supported Taranto’s AFL dream. 

Taranto’s father Phillip has had to do the same but from the other side of the world, deep in the heart of Texas.

“Obviously with my dad being over in the States and all his side, my mum and all of her side help me out immensely,” he said.

“They’ve helped bring me up and help me get to where I am today.

“She comes to all my games and she’ll be there this weekend, in saying that dad has done a tonne as well. 

“He called me up the other day and asked me if I wanted for him to fly over for my 50th and he was going to be here for three days, I said ‘don’t be silly, maybe for my 100th’. 

Jessica raised Taranto in Melbourne as a single mum and despite now living in different cities they’re as close as ever.

“For my 21st I came to the club and there was a huge thing of flowers in my locker, I thought it might be from a girl, but it was just my mum,” Taranto laughed.

“It was beautiful, it was really nice from mum and she’s really supportive of me all the time. 

“She’ll be there, my grandparents will be there and my best mate is trying to sort flights, but I think they’re a little bit too expensive for him.”

That best mate – Lachie – is one of the friends that helped Taranto create his new ‘Bull’ goal celebration.

Taranto said he and many of his other friends deserved credit for helping him remain grounded since being drafted to the GIANTS.

“Lachie’s done a bit for me and he loves watching me,” he said.

“He and a few of my other mates have been really supportive of me, they’ve kept me in check I guess as well, telling me I’m a shit footballer as well to keep my head the normal size.”