The 19th selection in the 2016 national draft has been patient for his opportunity in the red, blue and white. Tim English managed just two senior games in his debut season, but has steadily become a regular in 2018, and sat down with AFLPlayers.com.au to discuss his development, adjusting to a new city and more.
What was it like to play your first game in Perth since being drafted?
It was a little bit weird, and playing at the new stadium for the first time was pretty awesome. The whole playing in Perth thing was a different experience — it was new to play in my home state, but then have to fly back home the day of the game. It was nice to head back home and catch up with family and friends. As for the game, it was a disappointing result.
What was the noise like?
It was very loud. When the Freo chant started in the second half it was extremely loud, and then they had the little light shows going on. It’s an awesome environment they’ve got going over there and I think that stadium is going to be a tough place to play in the coming years.
What has it been like playing five senior games in a row after playing just two last year?
It’s a pretty cool feeling being able to play. I thought I might be a little bit further off going into the pre-season because I had hip surgery and I was still under weight. I was able to train well for the month or so leading into the season, then was lucky to get the opportunity against GWS up in Canberra. From there I’ve tried to play team footy and have been rewarded with selection.
How much size did you put on over the off-season?
During the off-season, I reckon I got up to 100 kg after being 95. Then I’d say I dropped one because the season started and I’m hovering just below 100. I tend to fluctuate a little bit.
Were you trying to eat anything and everything over the break, or did you stay within the strict confines of an AFL diet?
I try and stick within a diet, but it’s hard to do that when you need to put on weight. I’m basically just eating lots of big meals that contain plenty of protein, and also plenty of shakes.
How many meals a day do you have?
When I was trying to put on more weight over the off-season, I was having five or six meals a day with two protein shakes. The breakdown was sort of three main meals, three snack meals and then two shakes.
Being so tall and standing out, do you walk around and notice people not quite recognising who you are, but assuming you play some sort of professional sport? Do you notice the looks?
I still get asked once a day whether I play basketball or not.
Once a day?
Always! It happens everywhere, whether I’m at a café, or just walking around the street at home. People seem to think I still play basketball, so hopefully I can break that stereotype soon.
So you’ve played seven senior games now… maybe another 20 and people will know who you are.
Yeah, maybe another 20!
Going back to the game in Perth, what was your plan to try and stop Aaron Sandilands?
It’s a difficult one. A lot of ruckmen over the years have been asking themselves that same question! My method going in was to try and stick off him and then move late to try and get that front spot to give myself the best chance to win the hit-out. And even if I didn’t win it, I’ve given myself an opportunity to win it. I was trying to hold off, move late and catch him off guard. Him being one of the best ruckmen to play the game and so experienced, he caught onto it quickly. With him catching on, it became hard for me to try to change my plan on the fly, so it was a difficult task.
Was that the most disposals you’ve had in a game?
Yeah, I had 19 and that was the most I’ve got in an AFL game.
When you’re running around like that and getting the footy, do you feel like you’re playing well?
Because we were losing and Fremantle were on top of us, I didn’t really think like that during the game. Regardless of whether I had my most touches or not, it didn’t help the team.
What is expected of you each week?
First of all, I have to be competitive in the actual ruck contest and try my best to be predictable for the midfielders and win them the ball. From there, it’s about having the confidence to move around the ground and get myself in the best position in order to win the footy or provide link in offence, or even be there defensively. A lot of rucks like to play forward as well, and not so many of them like to defend, so it’s about being able to test that and improve the defensive side of my game.
Do you feel comfortable when you go forward?
I need to get a bit stronger, but I know one thing I’ve got over most defenders is length and reach, so if I can time my leap I’ll be able to get myself in the best position to mark the ball.
Which players at the Dogs have you gravitated towards for advice?
The other ruckmen like Jordan Roughead and Tom Campbell have been helpful. My locker is next to Jack Redpath’s, who has just been upgraded to the leadership group, so I talk to ‘Big Red’ a fair bit. He’s a funny guy, but is also really serious about his footy. I’m close to the midfielders who give me help in relation to my tap work, so the likes of Mitch Wallis and Caleb Daniel help out there. And of course, Easton Wood is very approachable and terrific to deal with.
How have you adjusted to Melbourne?
I really like it over here, although I’m still getting used to the traffic. As you know, I was late to this interview. It’s an awesome city to live in, there’s always plenty of things going on. I’ve made a lot of friends down here at the club.
Have many friends from WA moved over?
A couple have moved over for uni, and I see them every now and then. My cousin moved over here a year before I did, so he has shown me round.
Have you found any favourite spots?
I haven’t been down to the coast much but that’s somewhere I’d like to check out more. I’m pretty simple — I like to chill out on my days off and take it easy. I should do more exploring, but I haven’t yet.
There’s a few WA boys who were drafted at the same time as you… have you been able to connect with them over here?
I talk to Zac Fisher a lot, and Matt Guelfi, who was picked up in the 2017 draft, is someone I speak to a bit. Cam Zurhaar and Quinten Narkle are a few others, too.
Matt Guelfi looked good last week…
Yeah! He’s a good player and a good kid. I actually started playing with him in under-14s, so I’ve known him for a fair while. He’s a funny kid and I was close with him during under-18s. I was stoked to see him finally get drafted and take his opportunity. Now he gets to play on Anzac Day. It’s an awesome achievement.
What do you do get up to on your day off?
I was enrolled in a commerce course at Melbourne University, but there was an issue with my mathematics. In Western Australia the maths has changed, so I had to do a maths course to be able to get that recognised again as a prerequisite. I’m doing a maths course at the moment which is taking up a bit of time. I try and take it easy because it’s a busy life at the club, and it can be mentally and physically draining, so I like to get that chill time.
Did you get away during the off-season?
I had hip surgery at the start of it, so I was a little bit restricted. I also stayed here for the VFL finals because I wanted to support the boys. I went back to Perth for a few weeks and then went to Thailand with my girlfriend. Apart from that, I haven’t done much overseas travel so it was cool to see another culture, and I can’t wait to do a bit more travel.
You’re pretty independent. I remember you saying when we filmed ‘The Agents’ with you that you lived in Perth with your brother while you’re parents were at the farm, and now you live in Melbourne by yourself. Do you enjoy the alone time?
I do. I’m someone who keeps to myself a fair bit. I get to do my own thing. And I don’t mind it.
Considering you were an integral part of the documentary we put together on player agents, have you received any acting offers?
Yeah, a few different roles have popped up. Maybe Home and away, or even Neighbours. One of those excellent shows. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Did you cop any stick from friends or teammates after they watched it on Fox Footy?
I did cop a bit from a few mates, and also a bit from my teammates. They were probably jealous that they didn’t get a role in such an awesome documentary.
You said before the interview that you haven’t immersed yourself in the Melbourne coffee scene… what’s holding you back?
To be honest, I don’t know. I’m still not into the sort of coffee and… what do you call it?
Coffee and avocado scene?
Yeah, the coffee and avocado scene. It’ll happen sooner or later.
What’s been the best part of playing for the Bulldogs so far? You came in just after they won the flag, and I assume the place was in a good position commercially, and also there was some on-field momentum…
The best part has been the group. It’s been stated a fair bit recently, but we’re a really young group and having some excellent young talent makes it a fun environment. Like you said, the club is in a good position commercially, we just got Mercedes-Benz on board, so to be able to have that happening in that commercial side, and we have the best fans in the AFL as well.
It’s good that you take an interest in that, because a lot of players probably wouldn’t understand a lot about their sponsors and their importance…
With my commerce degree, it’s sort of an area that I’m interested in. We’ve had a few talks from Nick Truelson who works in that area, along with sponsorship. It’s interesting to me because it’s very important for the club.
Are you angling for a new Mercedes here?
Haha! That’d be nice. We work exclusively with the vans and the new utes, so everyone get on and buy one of those.
And you’ve got the Instagram account now, can we expect some endorsement deals?
Um, I’m probably not as high profile as what sponsors are looking for. Shane Biggs is probably the best example of how to use Instagram and be able to make it enjoyable for everyone and enjoyable for himself as well. He sits there cackling at his phone when he’s creating that stuff.
How is the body pulling up after a string of senior games?
I actually feel better than I ever have at any point. I copped a knock on my shin in the second or third game and had a bruised nerve in my shin which is pretty sore, but a part from that, I’ve had no real issues.
You received them pre-draft, but the Dean Cox comparisons are only intensifying now. How does that all make you feel?
I try not to listen to them too much. When that stuff was being talked about when I was in the under-18s, I said that he’s one of the best, if not the best rucks ever. To be compared to him in some way is nice to hear, but I have a long way to go before I get to his level.
When we first met you during the filming 18 months ago, you were a shy 18-year-old, but nowadays you seem a lot more comfortable in your surroundings. Does that come with being more comfortable with your spot in the side?
Yeah, I guess so. I’m obviously a bit older now, too. I don’t really know, but I just feel more comfortable and I’m happy to be putting myself out there.
You’ve got the trendy Melbourne hair cut now…
It’s not quite the fade, but I go through stages where I want it long and other times when it annoys me so I’ll cut it shorter.
Have you shopped around Melbourne much?
I’ve done a little bit. When I first got to Melbourne, I went to Doncaster first and I was like, ‘How is this a shopping centre?’ And then I went to Chadstone the week after and I went, ‘What is going on?’ I’ve never been to anything like that before. It felt like a workout going around it. There’s heaps of cool shops around, I also like going to Glenferrie Road in Hawthorn.
A lot of people talk about the go-home factor, but you re-signed early into your first year until the end of 2020, which is a big commitment…
Yeah, it is. The Bulldogs were really good with that negotiation, and I don’t have any interest in going home at the moment. I’m happy living over here in Melbourne and I love playing for the Bulldogs. When I got the offer I was always going to take it.
Good stuff. Thanks for the chat.