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2016 Draftees: Tim English

October 25, 2016 12:05 PM

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 06: Tim English poses during the NAB AFL Draft Combine portrait session at Etihad Stadium on October 06, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media)

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 06: Tim English poses during the NAB AFL Draft Combine portrait session at Etihad Stadium on October 06, 2016 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media)

TIM ENGLISH could already be on an AFL list, and his price would likely have been a lot cheaper than the early draft pick he is expected to command next month.

The West Australian ruckman was looking to register for last year's NAB AFL Draft but found difficulties when there was confusion around which WAFL club he was zoned to.

After a handful of promising appearances at school level, some recruiters tried to have him registered for Claremont's colts side, because he had to play at least one game in the under-18 system to be draft-eligible.

The WAFL rejected the application because he was actually zoned to South Fremantle (his parents have two residences, one which falls in South's country zone), and by then it was too late to register there.

He took the setback in his stride and has had an excellent season in 2016, showing consistent snippets of his talents. After a 20cm growth spurt in three years as a teenager, the 19-year-old has played at all levels for South Fremantle this season – including a senior debut – and was excellent for WA in the under-18 championships. 

English is the best ruckman in this year's draft and may be one of the most exciting big men to come through the system in recent years. What makes the 205cm prospect most special is his ability to roam around the ground and pick up possessions. He has a genuine presence in the midfield.

The way English is prepared to fight for the ball at ground level gives him a point of difference from other ruckmen, and his skill level is also unusually high-class for someone his size. He is a nice link-up player through the midfield and is a confident user of the ball across the ground. He averaged 17 disposals in six games for South Fremantle's reserves side and used it at 75 per cent efficiency.

English's running ability has impressed, and at the NAB AFL Draft Combine he broke the 11-minute barrier in the 3km time-trial (running a final time of 10:55). His ruck work is quality, and he can also float forward to move naturally through the forward line and present a target there.  

The question on drafting a player like English is that it will take some patience before seeing him ready to go at AFL level. He is still lean, and needs a couple of years in the gym before he'll be able to match it with other senior ruckmen.

That has come through even as an under-18, with the big man only averaging one contested mark a game at colts level in WA. He is unlikely to be the big, bustling ruckman who busts opens games through physicality and will instead rely more on his skill and athleticism to work over opponents.

His agility test at the combine (9.16 seconds) was also the slowest of any player to compete at Etihad Stadium. 

English's loping running style and ball use for a big man has drawn comparisons to West Coast great Dean Cox. Of the current-day players, Rory Lobb might be the best comparison. English is raw, like Lobb was when Greater Western Sydney picked him in 2013, but can shift forward and use his athleticism around the ground. 

If the cards fall a certain way, you wouldn't count out English being in Greater Western Sydney's sights at pick No.2. If not there, English looks likely to be selected somewhere in the first dozen or so picks. Fremantle seems a possible suitor at pick No.7.  

Recruiters are all about upside, and English might have the most in the pool. He seems to have only scratched the surface of his talent. Clubs don't generally like to use early picks on ruckmen but the West Australian is a real talent. From a list manager's perspective, he can fill an important role at a club for a long time.