Recently we had the opportunity to sit down with Australia’s tallest Rugby League player and Canberra Raiders prop Dane Tilse. A prop, otherwise known as a “bookend” is generally the largest player on a rugby side, and standing at 200cm Dane Tilse is exactly that. We have a chat to him about; his recent decision to shift from the NRL to English Super League, what he finds the pros and cons are of been so tall in a sport primarily dominated by shorter, stockier players are, and of course some of his highlights in his last 10 years at the Canberra Raiders are.
Plus2: Possible to tell us a bit about your childhood and how you got in to Rugby League?
Dane Tilse: Yeah, so I grew up in Scone, a small town in New South Wales, and I used to play soccer when I was, like 6 and 7, and then saw some rugby league on the telly, and my dad actually played a bit of first grade for Canberra as well. So, I knew all about Rugby League and just wanted to go over—and start playing and started when I was 8 years old.
P2: Were you always tall?
DT: Yeah, I was always pretty much the tallest guy in my grade at school. So I was always in the middle, at the back for the photos and that.
P2: What are the biggest advantages of being tall and playing League?
DT: Probably not a great deal of advantages, I guess one of the things would be—you know, tackling, sometimes you can create a bit of space, and get an offload away. Because I’m the tallest guy it’s probably not the norm, so it has a few disadvantages as well; like getting off the ground is always a bit tougher, and groundwork drills are a bit of a struggle.
P2: In the 10 years you’ve played at the Canberra Raiders what are your favourite moments?
DT: Probably the semi-final games, I played four or five semi-finals and you always sort of remember them as a highlight – it’s a massive atmosphere at the game especially the ones in Canberra that were sellouts. Also because I don’t score that many tries, my first try was definitely a highlight, it was actually a 30 metre try which is pretty good for me, it happened against the Sydney Roosters and that was definitely a highlight.
P2: Do you have anything special planned for your 200th raiders game?
DT: That will be a home game against Melbourne I think, so will probably just get friends and family down and that will also probably be the last home game I play for the Raiders too so will be an emotional game for myself.
P2: Possible to give us a bit of insight on how you decided to make the move to the English Super League?
DT: Yeah, a guy I used to play with Michael Weyman. He actually got hurt over there at Hull KR, and my former captain Terry Campese is actually over there, and they were looking around because two of the front rowers were hurt, and then they contacted my management, and I was thinking, you know, I’d get over there next year anyway, and here’s a good opportunity that’s presented itself which may not be there at the end of the year. So I went to the club, and the club was good enough, they were on the same page, with me having been there a long time, and probably looking for a new challenge, so it was the best thing for both of us for me to go. So that’s how all that happened.
P2: What would be the biggest difference between the style of play between the NRL and English Super League?
DT: I think over there, there’s a little bit less whistle so the game opens up a bit more. And there might be a bit more opportunity because with NRL every single team is really strong where as over there, there is probably not the same caliber of player across the board, so there will be more opportunities present, so I’m looking forward to that.
P2: What do you think you’ll miss most about Australia?
DT: Probably the weather. Apparently it’s pretty miserable over there. But you got to take the good with the bad and it’s going to be a really good life experience, so—yeah, I’m really excited. I actually have never even been to Europe, so that’s going to be good fun – and freshen me up football wise, going to a new team, because I have been at the one club for such a long time.
P2: Being tall—have you found that your training regime, either during season or off-season, differs at all from some of the shorter blokes at the club at all?
DT: Well, not really. To be honest, you know, if you are a big guy, and you’re poor at getting up off the ground, they tend to make you do a fair bit of it so that you get better at it. Yeah, so not really—it’s not as personalised as it could be at times. Obviously in the gym, I can’t squat what some of the shorter guys can do. And having long legs I’ve always sort of struggled in the gym a bit with getting the same sort of weight on as the shorter blokes but I have always just done as heavy as I can and as long as you’re maxing out on all your reps that’s the main thing.
P2: Yeah, absolutely. What have you found that the hardest thing to shop for being tall is?
DT: Pretty much everything just lengthwise – you get a XXL, and it might be wide, but the length is the real problem, in jumpers shirts and even jeans, especially if you’re tall but a slimmer build. The ones you guys sent across all fit okay, they were all XLs but the maroon one is definitely my favourite.
P2: In every day life – what do you find the most annoying thing about being 200cm is?
DT: Ah god, there’s plenty. Getting in the car, especially if it’s not your car and your heads touching the roof. That and obviously travelling, where if I am flying a long distance I will book myself an exit row seat, but then generally when the club is booking on shorter distance flights you’re just in a standard seat and my legs are jamming in to seat in front, that really does my head in.
P2: Lastly, any thoughts on what you will do after rugby?
DT: Not 100%, but pretty sure after I head over to the UK I will come back to a Newcastle local league and try to get involved there, whether it be playing for one or two more years or getting in to coaching and see what sort of job opportunities present themselves with that. Obviously we also have the Tilse’s cider business so I will look to get more involved in that.[Dane was kind enough to bring us along some of his family business’s cider, which was fittingly branded in green and was definitely spot on.]