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Tim Taranto, a big-game gun

Callum Twomey,  October 27, 2016 12:47 PM

Draft Prospects: Tim Taranto The draft prospect has been compared to Geelong great Jimmy Bartel with his overhead marking a highlight

A RECRUITER was recently quizzed about any late bolters in this year's NAB AFL Draft pool. A few names were mentioned, including Tim Taranto, who finished the season in brilliant form for the Sandringham Dragons.

"Taranto?" the recruiter said. "No, he's been near the top all the way along."

That might have been the case, but Taranto's end to his draft campaign certainly proved him to be one of the best performed players in the 2016 crop.

  Indicative Draft Order

He kicked four goals from 23 disposals in the Dragons' preliminary final win, then gathered 30 touches and 11 tackles in their flag victory the following week. He backed it up with a four-goal display in the NAB All-Stars game on Grand Final eve, showing his standing among the best draft prospects.

Taranto is a former basketballer who reached high levels as a junior. But football was always front and centre in his mind as the sport he wanted to pursue professionally. He looks primed to step up at the next level. 

Firstly, Taranto is a ball winner. As a midfielder he averaged 27 disposals in 10 games for the Sandringham Dragons, including about 13 a game that were won in contested situations. At 187cm and 82kg, Taranto also has the body size to push through congestion and find his own touches and feed them off.

What makes Taranto a little bit different to other midfielders, however, is his ability to play forward. He was an almost permanent half-forward for Vic Metro at the NAB AFL Under-18 Championships, and he was involved in 38 scoring chains, nine more than the second best player in the carnival. He kicked four goals in four games for Metro, and averaged 19 disposals to prove he could handle both areas of the ground (he also kicked 14 goals for the Dragons).

Taranto's athletic profile is impressive – he ran a level 15.9 beep test earlier this year – but he matches that with footy sense. The 18-year-old is tough and competitive, and a great overhead mark around the ground. His leap and strong hands give him a different dimension and he averaged seven grabs a game at TAC Cup level.

The intangible in Taranto's game has been his ability to stand up in important moments of games. Taranto lifted in the big games towards the end of the season, and so did his draft standing because of it.

Taranto is a solid kick without being a terrific one. His kicking efficiency at TAC Cup level this year was 54 per cent, which isn't at the level of other top-line midfielders. His efficiency was slightly better at 65 per cent in four matches for Vic Metro.

Some recruiters have wondered whether he can fumble a bit too much at ground level and questioned his speed, but he ran a three-second flat 20-metre sprint at TAC Cup testing day earlier in the year to show that's not too much of a worry. He didn't test at this month's NAB AFL Draft Combine after injuring his hamstring earlier that week training for the four-day screening at Etihad Stadium.

There is a bit of Jimmy Bartel in the way Taranto can mark above his head so well for a midfielder/forward. He times his run so well and is courageous when coming up against bigger bodies. In much the same way, Taranto is likely to mould his game on Sydney Swans star Luke Parker, another marking midfielder.

Taranto's end to the season has seen him come into top-10 calculations. Because of his form late in the year, some have seen him come with a rush. But plenty of clubs have been fans throughout the year. He's a first-round pick.

Taranto is a footballer who has the athletic attributes to stand up to the top level. He's a confident, self-assured person who believes he can be a very good player, and wants the ball in his hands at the big moments. He'll be backing himself to play senior football next season. 

More Draft News:

  Draft Prospects: Midfielders

  2016 NAB Trade Period Wrap