Learning English: Big Dog growing into new forward role

Tim English was a force up forward for the Bulldogs against the Lions. Picture: Western Bulldogs Football Club

What was once the Western Bulldogs’ biggest weakness, is quickly becoming one of the team’s greatest strengths and a point of difference.

The Bulldogs’ key forward trio of Aaron Naughton, Josh Bruce and Tim English has helped the club extend its undefeated start to the year, after it beat Brisbane by 19 points at Mars Stadium on Saturday.

Bruce starred with his 10-goal haul last week, but English was best on ground for his efforts in Ballarat

The recruitment of Stefan Martin (who played against his old side Brisbane for the first time on Saturday) has not only given English a mentor in the ruck, but allowed him to spend significant time inside 50 and kick at least one goal in every game so far this season.

But English showed just how dangerous he can be up forward against the Lions, with his 17 disposals, team-high nine marks and three goals.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that a player that tall is gonna absorb some of the attention for others as well. So he’ll get the spoils at times and he got some today, and other times other people will get the reward,” Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said when describing English’s game.

“I think they’re (the three key forwards) complimenting each other pretty well. Even though Brucey, comparatively when you think about last week, didn’t get the spoils, he still brought the ball to ground when he was out of position.

“Naughts (Naughton) didn’t finish off as well as he can. But it’s what we can have around that too, we’re a pretty well-balanced side and we’re probably a bit quicker and more nimble than we ever have been. So that helps you play the three talls.

“Naughts (Naughton) is fanatic at ground level and the other two boys are pretty good at ground level, so that makes a difference.”

Another added facet to the Bulldogs’ game has been the introduction of former Magpie and Giant Adam Treloar.

Cast off by Collingwood over the off-season, Treloar has been making his former side pay with his spectacular start to the season.

But his form has come as no surprise to Beveridge, despite the hamstring concerns he dealt with in the pre-season.

“He’s a marquee player in the competition. We knew that when I first met him at my place before we were able to do the deal. I said to him ‘there’d be 16 other clubs who’d want to be in this position’.

“I think we were probably the only club in his wheelhouse and could afford to do it from a list management point of view. We knew full well the quality of player we were getting and any uncertainty around some of his injury history and that wasn’t a big concern for us.

“He’s probably where we thought he’d be because he’s such a good player.

“Again today, you just saw him keep the ball in his hands and how creative and productive he was for us. That’s exciting for our team, he’s a little bit of a point of difference in some of the things we try to pull off week to week.”

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Young key defender, Lewis Young, came in for his first game of the season and just the 15th of his career to replace the injured Ryan Gardner.

Beveridge was impressed with his efforts and while he said that Gardner was a loss, he admitted that he wasn’t concerned when deciding who to bring during the week given the options the club has.

“Louie (Lewis) Young, first game back for a while. I thought he kept it simple and thought he really got in the way.

“Youngy’s been playing well at the level beneath and Zaine’s (Cordy) back playing some pretty good footy, and we’re bringing Buku Khamis on as one of those defensive posts as well.

“We knew there was a tall or two to choose from. Louie’s probably been the most consistent over the last month so he got the look and I felt like he took it with both hands, which is fantastic for him.”

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