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Young Dogs ruckman rises to the challenge

Tim English believes his performance against Essendon's Tom Bellchambers last Sunday was his best at AFL level - AFL,Western Bulldogs,Tim English
Tim English believes his performance against Essendon's Tom Bellchambers last Sunday was his best at AFL level
Being the No. 1 ruckman is a big task, but it's something I've always wanted to do
Tim English

JUST FIVE games into his promising AFL career, Tim English is embracing the challenge of being the Western Bulldogs' No. 1 ruckman.

With premiership big man Jordan Roughead resuming through the VFL this week after suffering a concussion in round two, coach Luke Beveridge will hand English the responsibility of leading the ruck division for the second successive week in Saturday's game against Sydney at Etihad Stadium.

Opposed to a more experienced Tom Bellchambers in the Dogs' win over Essendon last week, the 20-year-old played his best game so far in the red, white and blue, collecting career-highs in hit-outs (19) and possessions (17).

After showing plenty of encouraging signs in his two senior games last year while being mainly developed in the VFL, English told AFL.com.au that season of conditioning has him ready to play a bigger role in 2018.

Taken with pick 19 in the 2016 NAB AFL Draft, the West Australian looms as another valuable prize for the club winning the premiership that year.

"Being the No. 1 ruckman is a big task, but it's something I've always wanted to do," English said.

"I enjoy the challenge of playing in the ruck and I enjoy the competitive aspect with the other ruckmen at the club which drives all to be better.

"'Bevo' has been brilliant with his communication because he's been really open and honest on where I'm at, what I need to work on and all the little things I need to do within a game.

"I think (the Essendon game) was my best performance at AFL level and I gained a lot of confidence from Luke picking me as the sole ruckman.

"I'm really happy with how the season is going so far, but I hoped for a couple of more wins."

Luke Darcy knows what it takes to survive in the ruck, with the former Bulldog playing 226 games in the highly combative position for more than a decade.

Darcy had a bird's-eye view of English's performance against the Dons from the Channel Seven commentary box and says he has the attributes to be a dual-position star if his development continues at its current rate.

"I thought Tim's performance against Essendon was outstanding for someone in just their fifth game," he told AFL.com.au.

"He's still growing into his body and learning to play at AFL level, but you can see the talent that is going to make him a really, really good player.

"The thing that is so exciting about Tim English is he's 205cm, good at ground level and play forward as well.

"When that package all comes together with a bit more experience, he has the potential to be a 25-possession ruckman that can kick a few goals and dominate the hit-outs.

"I don't want to put too much pressure on Tim, but that's the future I see for him."

English is well aware ruckmen who can't have an impact around the ground and up forward are a dying breed. With Beveridge demanding flexibility from his charges, he knows that getting more proficient in attack is just as important as continuing to build his once-slight frame.

Fortunately for English, his father Jon "is a big, old farmer" in rural Western Australia.

"I've always been a bit undersized in the weight department, but I've put on 10kg since I've joined the club and I'll need to build on that further," said English, who now weighs 100kg.

"I can't just concede hit-outs, as I need to be as competitive as possible as I can be, but I do enjoy spreading from the contest and it's something the coaches like in my game.

"Being able to use my height in dual positions is really important, and if I can impact forward and in the ruck, then that's a bonus.

"Against the Giants (in round one) I played the majority of the game as a forward, which I really enjoyed because I haven't played there much, but it's something I've been really working on.

"It's been a great challenge for me."