The next generation of GIANTS has arrived with star third-year midfielder Tim Taranto claiming his first Kevin Sheedy Medal in a thrilling count on Friday night.
The top three of Taranto, Coleman Medallist Jeremy Cameron and fourth-year mid Jacob Hopper could barely be separated all night with Cameron leading Taranto by one vote at the end of the regular season.
Heading into the final game of the season - the Grand Final - Cameron led on 220 votes with Taranto on 216 and Hopper on 214.
On the final day in September Taranto polled the second-highest votes from the coaches to leapfrog Cameron and claim his first Club Champion Award.
Inaugural coach and Life Member Kevin Sheedy was on hand at the Hyatt Regency on Friday night to present Taranto with the award named after him.
In just his third season, and with co-captain Callan Ward and vice-captain Stephen Coniglio missing for large parts of the year, Taranto elevated his game to another level playing as a midfielder.
The 21-year-old played every game of the season, averaging almost 28 touches and more than six tackles a game and kicking 11 goals. He was ranked second in the competition for tackles and fourth for disposals and kicks in a stunning season.
Taranto took out the top honour with 222 votes, ahead of Cameron (220) and Hopper (218) with star defender Nick Haynes (206) and defender Zac Williams (203) rounding out the top five.
Coach Leon Cameron paid tribute to Taranto’s win.
“This is a wonderful effort by Tim and a much-deserved reward for an outstanding season,” Cameron said.
“His commitment and dedication on the training track and desire to improve himself is almost second to none and he’s been an important part of our football club since he walked in the doors three years ago.
“Tim was thrown a huge challenge this year - alongside Jacob Hopper – to virtually lead the midfield for much of the season and neither of them disappointed.
“To see a player in just his third year take his game to such a level is exciting to watch as a coach and we’re looking forward to his continued development over the coming years.
“I’d also like to congratulate Jeremy on an outstanding season as well as Jacob on what he’s achieved this year alongside Tim.
“It's great to see Nick back up his top-five finish last year with another magnificent season and to see Zac bounce back after a terrible injury to have such a strong year as well.”
In one of the closest finishes to the count in its eight-year history, Taranto and Cameron’s consistency saw them near the top of the leader board for much of the night with Taranto polling in all but four games for the season.
Reigning Sheedy Medallist Lachie Whitfield led the count after six rounds before he missed six of the next nine games through injury.
Highly rated tagger Matt de Boer led the count at the end of rounds nine and 14 with the shoulder injury he suffered in round 13 costing him seven games on the sidelines.
Hopper took the lead at round 19 before Cameron wrestled it back to finish on top at the end of the regular season. Hopper, Haynes and Williams flew home during the finals series but they couldn’t catch Taranto.
Five players polled perfect votes across the season with Cameron receiving 20 votes three times (including his Coleman-Medal winning effort in round 23), Lachie Whitfield twice and Matt de Boer once.
Haynes and Williams received perfect scores for their efforts in the Preliminary Final against Collingwood.
The night also saw Jeremy Cameron inducted as the club's second playing Life Member after reaching the 150-game milestone earlier this year while tributes were made to retirees Brett Deledio and Dawson Simpson.
Earlier in the night, Chairman Tony Shepherd addressed the room of more than 500 guests.
“While we are disappointed with how the 2019 season finished, there are a lot of positives to take out of the year," Shepherd said.
“To reach our first Grand Final in just our eighth season is a wonderful achievement and to do so with 30,000 members behind us has been terrific.
“We have quickly developed a strong culture at the GIANTS which the communities of Western Sydney, Canberra and surrounding areas are truly getting behind.
“Having won games in each of our four consecutive finals campaigns, enjoying strong corporate support and with a passionate supporter base and a hungry playing group, we are a powerful club with plenty to look forward to in the years to come.”
In other awards, Taranto also took home the GIANTS Standards Defensive Award for the second year in a row.
Vice-captain Stephen Coniglio was presented with the GIANTS Foundation Award for his community work, just a week after receiving the prestigious Jim Stynes Community Leadership Award.
Brent Daniels took home the Rising Star Award after playing every game in his second season in the competition while potential top draftee Tom Green was named the Academy Player of the Year.
Young defender Connor Idun claimed the NEAFL Development Award as fellow defender Nick Haynes proved a fan favourite, winning the Members and Fans MVP.
Newly-crowned Life Member and Coleman Medallist Jeremy Cameron won his eighth straight leading goal kicker award with Harry Himmelberg taking home Mark of the Year for his courageous effort in round four and Jeremy Finlayson winning Goal of the Year for a stunning effort in round three.
As well as a top-10 finish in the Sheedy Medal, de Boer also took home the Coaches Award.
The Kevin Sheedy Medal is voted on by Coach Leon Cameron as well as his Senior Assistant Matthew Nicks and Assistant Coaches Mark McVeigh, Brad Miller and Lenny Hayes. Up to four votes are able to be awarded to a player by each coach every round with each player able to receive a maximum of 20 votes per round.
2019 Kevin Sheedy Medal Top 10
- Tim Taranto (222 votes)
- Jeremy Cameron (220)
- Jacob Hopper (218)
- Nick Haynes (206)
- Zac Williams (203)
- Matt de Boer (192)
- Lachie Whitfield (183)
- Toby Greene (180)
- Phil Davis (167)
- Jeremy Finlayson (164)
GIANTS Foundation Award - Stephen Coniglio
Rising Star Award - Brent Daniels
Westfund Academy Player of the Year - Tom Green
GIANTS Standards Defensive Award - Tim Taranto
NEAFL Development Award - Connor Idun
Members and Fans MVP, presented by Groupon - Nick Haynes
Virgin Australia Mark of the Year - Harry Himmelberg, Round 4 v Geelong
Toyo Tires Goal of the Year - Jeremy Finlayson, Round 3 v Richmond
Leading Goal Kicker - Jeremy Cameron
Coaches Award - Matt de Boer