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How Tim became an English Bulldog

Despite a few murmurings in the days prior to November 25, Tim English was never going to slide too far down the draft board.

A native of Western Australia, the initial rumblings involved Fremantle who could have captured the lightly-built and superbly-skilled big man with pick seven (before it became eight on the night).

After that ship sailed, Gold Coast, who met with English prior to the draft and owned four picks inside the top 10 stood next to pounce, but they bolted after concerns that they may struggle to retain him in the long term.

Then of course, there was Port Adelaide, who English interestingly supported growing up, but their meetings and initial interest proved to only be exploratory.

After all, why would you select a ruck inside or around the top 10, who may have potential upside further down the track but was in desperate need to add more than a few kilos? Particularly when there are ready-made youngsters available.

Just ask the Hawks, Cats, Crows, Power and Saints in recent times — you can usually trade for them when they’re ready to emerge.

If by some miracle, he was around when Essendon selected for the second time, they would have picked him up, but just like the Western Bulldogs’ September run, a potential long-term ruckman fell into the premiers’ lap.

Three weeks before the draft, Simon Dalrymple and his cohort of recruiters suspected that maybe, just maybe, the Bulldogs could get their hands on English with their selection at the end of the first round.

But even the eternal optimist would have doubted that he’d still be nervously sitting next to his parents when Gillon McLachlan strolled up to the stage to announce the 19th pick.

“About three days before, someone said it was a zero percent chance,” Dalrymple told

“That changed, and the information we were getting was that there was now a chance. We played the percentages in terms of our WA visit three weeks before the draft, where we thought that you just never know with ruckman, they could slip.

“So we decided to go to the farm in Pingelly and I’m glad we did.”

The Bulldogs, like so many other clubs in the last few years, are prepared to exhaust every avenue in their recruitment so that they can understand as much as possible about their potential draftees.

In the trip to Western Australia, Dalrymple spoke to staff from the local café English was working at, current and former coaches from various levels including the WA talent programs, and some of his school teachers.

“He’s driven,” Dalrymple added.

“When he sets his mind to something, as one of his school teachers said, he can achieve it, and that’s important in elite athletes. They need to have that mindset where they want to get better.

“It was fantastic to meet his mum and dad in that surrounding, and to give us some context around his upbringing — being a boarder in Perth is a bit different.

“We’re pretty thorough — we don’t like surprises — so hopefully we don’t get any with Tim.”

The draft is a different beast, and many like to contextualise right after the event with commentary around the winners and losers.

Then, of course, there’s the retrospective pieces that will be published in years to come that will look back at the 2016 installment.

The common perception at this point is that ruckman are a risky proposition, and potentially not worth the sacrifice of an early pick, but will this drop down the draft board come back to haunt those that overlooked?

You’d be brave to doubt Dalrymple, who can claim the rights to drafting Marcus Bontempelli, Jake Stringer, Jackson Macrae, Luke Dahlhaus and Caleb Daniel in recent years.

“We saw him as the best ruckman in the pool, and at 205cm he fits a need for us,” Dalrymple explained.

“His mobility to get around the ground was a key part of it. Bevo’s big on our offence and everyone joining in, and you want the ball in Tim’s hands, which is not the norm usually for ruckman.

“We’re confident he’ll be a good player.”

At the beginning of April, English and his new club put pen to paper on an extension that would see him remain at the kennel until at least the end of 2020.

Dogs fans will get a glimpse into their bright future on Saturday when English prepares to take on the developing Saints, but don’t apply the pressure too early.

This is a long-term investment.