Grad Gander: Tim Barton

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There’s no denying Sydney Uni Australian National Football Club’s (SUANFC) Tim Barton is a busy man. When he’s not donning the blue and gold on the oval for the Students, you’ll find the Elite Athlete Program (EAP) member and Veterinary Science Graduate working at an animal practice in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, all while preparing to add another qualification under his belt. 

As part of our Grad Gander series, we heard from the self-proclaimed “poor man’s Israel Folau” who talked us through his remarkable sporting code switch, experience juggling the demands of study and rep AFL and the lessons he’s learnt along the way. 

What is your current occupation, and what do you love about it? 

I’m currently working in a small Animal Practice on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. We mostly see cats and dogs, but we also see birds, including backyard chickens. We get lots of pocket pets like rabbits and guinea pigs and heaps of wildlife. I have three dogs of my own; Panda, she’s a Cross Staffy, a Jack Russel named Walter, and a Kelpie called Neville. 

What was one of the biggest challenges you faced at Uni?

One of my biggest challenges, when I was at uni, was time management. Trying to juggle the heavy commitment of Veterinary Science which included many placements and practicals, with training, playing and travelling for my sport was difficult. But, I found if you were upfront with coaches and Uni staff about what you were dealing with, they were really good. Communication was pretty important to me. I had some help from the Elite Athletes Program (EAP) department, who assisted with scheduling if there were clashes; something of which I’m forever thankful for. Living on campus or near campus and having a casual job near or on campus was great because it eliminated a lot of non-essential travel. 

Overall, I found sport and study went hand-in-hand. I was able to mentally refresh after a long day at uni by going for a run and kick with mates or even just going to the gym. I found myself feeling mentally refreshed and able to put in some better quality study. 

Any tips for EAP athletes? 

Always be thankful for the people that help you, manage your time well and communicate well. 

What do you hope to be doing in five years?

In terms of my career, I’m about to start a Postgraduate Ophthalmology course, so I’ll be doing that over the next 12-18 months. I’m looking to basically improve my ophthalmology, diagnostics and natural treatment skills within the general practice. I’ll then see where that takes me and if specialisation is something I want to follow down the track. 

In terms of my life, my partner and I are looking to get into the Sydney property market, which is proving to be quite tricky. We’re looking in the next six months to make a purchase; if it’s on the Northern Beaches, it will probably be a unit.
We’re also looking to start a family. I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time with my niece over the last 18 months since she was born. I’ve loved that, and I’m looking to start a family of my own. 

What’s a fun fact about you? 

Growing up in Sydney, I played a lot of rugby league as a junior, so I started playing AFL quite late. I guess I could be called a poor man’s Israel Folau! I, funnily enough, did play with Folau in his development year with the Junior West Giants. I got to play with many other guys playing in the AFL now, which is pretty cool. I also got coached by Kevin Sheedy, which was awesome. 

A funny story from then is when we played the Swan’s on the Gold Coast in a NAB Challenge match. After the game, they did a player rating, so Israel Falou had a big rating, and all the other players were up there. I was down the bottom basically, number 38 – Tim Barton. It said I was “awkward but not ineffective” which is a bit of a backhanded compliment I think! 

Who’s up next?

I’m going to nominate a guy I lived with during uni. He’s from the Rugby program so we might not see another sport for quite a while (sorry to the other sports). He’s living and working in London and I’d love to hear how he’s going.  Dane McCarthy,  you’re up next.