01/03/2024
Tim English

Tim English was impressive through the ruck on Wednesday night. Photo: Western Bulldogs FC

Tim English proved he could shoulder the ruck load for the Dogs this year, while Luke Beveridge remained hesitant to play Josh Dunkley and Tom Liberatore in the centre square together on Wednesday night.

The late out of Stef Martin swung the spotlight directly on Tim English. Up against the best ruckman of the past decade, he passed his test with flying colours and proved he’s ready to take the next step in his career.

Martin was left out of the final team as a late out, which gave English big ruck minutes to show what he can do.

His strength lies in his aerobic capacity. The 24-year-old moves around the ground brilliantly for his size which means he can get forward to hit the scoreboard, but – most importantly – fill the hole in defence.

He pushed hard when the Demons had control of the ball to get back and impacted when it mattered, recording six intercept possessions to help stem the flow of Demon inside 50s.

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He had a shot on goal after dragging Max Gawn forward but failed to convert a tough chance from the pocket.

The improvement in English’s game was shown in the midfield contest. He had 13 contested possessions to complement his eight clearances, and used the ball at 85 per cent.

A midfielder in his junior years that underwent a late growth spurt, the 207-centimetre ruckman is beginning to put his ground-level game together, and the full package of what he can become is a tantalising prospect for the Dogs.

Is Dunkley back in Bevo’s good books?

In the 2021 Grand Final Josh Dunkley was left out of the Dogs’ engine room, attending just three centre bounces. Six months later and coach Luke Beveridge is ready to play his star ball-winner where he belongs.

Dunkley spent his night in the centre square for the Dogs, and was a vital cog as his side stemmed the early momentum of the reigning premiers who kicked the first four goals of the game. He had 29 disposals (12 contested) and seven score involvements to lead the Bulldogs.

It was a direct role switch with Tom Liberatore, who attended 30 centre bounces in the Grand Final. The contested bull was left up forward on Wednesday night, featuring in the centre square just once. Dunkley comparatively enjoyed 15 CBAs.

While Beveridge has recognised the need to get the 25-year-old into his best position, it may come at the cost of the player that led the league in clearances last season.

At 29 years of age Liberatore has had an interrupted season. He recorded 75 per cent time on ground and will increase his midfield minutes as the season goes on. However, the early impressions from Dogs are they aren’t confident in the two inside ball-winners co-existing in the same engine room for long periods of time.

With superstars Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae, Adam Treloar and Bailey Smith to also integrate into the fold, it will again be a thankless task for Beveridge to find the right combinations as the season goes on.

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