AFL draft 2016: Tim English says ‘growth spurt’ a tall story

Tim English says reports of his growth spurt have been exaggerated.
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Yes, the West Australian is much taller than he was three years ago. But not by 20 centimetres as has been claimed.

“I was probably high-180s in year 9. Just gradually over time I’ve got to [over] 200,” English said.

He measured 2.05 metres at the recent AFL draft combine. But that didn’t make him the tallest in his family. Older brother Daniel remains – though perhaps not for much longer – a bigger brother, at 2.06 metres. Daniel doesn’t play football. He’s a cricketer with his university club. You wouldn’t be shocked to learn that he’s a fast bowler.

The English brothers grew up (well, at least the start of their growing) on the family’s sheep and wheat farm in Pingelly, 250 kilometres south-east of Perth. Tim loved his sport as a child, playing football, cricket, tennis, hockey, soccer as well as swimming and cross-country running. Tim’s start in football came when the local under-13 team was short on numbers. He was nine. A few years later he moved to Perth to board at Christ Church Grammar. “I found it quite hard at the start,” he said.

“Sharing a room with six people, it’s quite a different experience .. you get used to it.”

Christ Church isn’t renowned as a strong football school, although it was the home of dual West Coast premiership players Chris Lewis and Tony Evans, current Eagle Eric Mackenzie and former Fremantle and Hawthorn defender Luke McPharlin. Its strength is academia, but as part of Perth’s hotly contested PSA schools group, its best footballers play for their school ahead of their club. When playing for Christ Church three years ago, English was a midfielder. Then he shot up, spending time as a key position player at end of the ground. Then he tipped over the two-metre mark, graduating into a ruckman, the position he played this year for South Fremantle, having finished school last year.

He said that playing in so many positions in a short period of time has helped his football education. But it’s his growth spurt that has tipped him into contention for selection in the top 10 at next week’s draft in Sydney. Quietly spoken, English said he is relishing his new football life.

“I enjoy that you’re pretty much a fourth midfielder,” he said.

“I like to be able to sit behind play and read the play, cut off opposition attacks.” His ruck role models are Todd Goldstein, Dean Cox and Max Gawn. And he’s a big fan of Greater Western Sydney big man Rory Lobb.

English has been living with his brother this year, working a variety of odd jobs, including as a courier and in a cafe. But in recent months he’s tried to get back as much as possible to Pingelly, visiting his mother Julie, and lending a hand on the farm to his father John. Tim was helping out on the farm before he’d entered his teens, even driving machinery. But he has no aspirations to one day return to the farm. “You have to rely too much on the weather.”

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