There was no doubting Dan Butler’s AFL career came to a crossroads last year.
After a wretched run with injury in his first two seasons on Richmond’s list, there was no guarantee the speedy small forward would be offered a third year to prove his credentials.
But Richmond put faith in Butler and 2017 has seen him repay that faith.
Butler, a Ballarat boy, has played 22 matches this season and kicked 29 goals, making him a key component to the Tigers’ high-pressure forward line.
His mum, Julie, recalls the day last year where Dan came home to visit and discussed with his parents the uncertainty of his playing future. The advice was simple, work hard and control what you can control. 12 months on, the discussions consist of preparing for grand final parades and fulfilling every footballers childhood dream.
“We were really worried towards the end of last season,” Julie said.
“He said he wasn’t sure if he’d be re-signed, I said whatever will be, will be, and he went back and put his head down and showed them what he can do.
“He was very lucky and very grateful that Richmond re-signed him and showed a bit of faith in him.”
Julie and her husband, Paul, are the first to admit they’re not exactly students of the game. But they have embraced the game throughout their son’s journey and while the midweek emotion is excitement, the nerves will come, and come quickly, in the hours leading up to Saturday’s grand final against Adelaide.
“I’m not too bad at the moment, the night before I always get really nervous.
“A lot of kids don’t get the chance to do that, it’s amazing.
“It’s really exciting and we’re all very proud, he couldn’t of gone to a better team...they’re very family-orientated, it’s great to be a part of.”
Butler’s grandfather, John, was a big part of Butler’s career.
A passionate football man, John was instrumental in introducing the game to Butler. While John is no longer with us, there is no doubt he would be extremely proud of the path Butler’s career has taken and the character shown to get to the level he has.
Butler played his junior football at Lake Wendouree before becoming involved in the North Ballarat Rebels program. St Patrick’s College’s football coach Howard Clark has also played a significant role in Butler’s career, the pair remain close and often catch-up when Butler returns home to Ballarat.
Butler was selected with the 67th selection in the 2014 AFL National Draft, but did not make his debut until round one of this season – he received a NAB AFL Rising Star nomination in round 11.