AFL 2020: Dan Butler wins Ian Stewart Medal

The Saints Round Four encounter with Richmond was an unusual one in more ways than one for former Tiger Dan Butler. While an empty Marvel Stadium meant he was able to hear everything his former teammates had to say about him, it had little impact on his performance. Just the circuit breaker the Saints needed, his first half efforts went a long way to securing the four premiership points for his new team. Bragging rights over his old team weren’t the only reward for his 14 disposal, three goal effort; it also saw him receive the Ian Stewart Medal as best on ground.

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He also earned a guest spot on the Sunday Footy Show the following morning. Speaking with Tony Jones, Nathan Brown, Matthew Lloyd and co, Butler discussed how it felt to get one over his old team and how he was enjoying life with his new one. “Obviously it was a bit of a weird one coming up against the old side,” Butler explained. “I’ve got so many great mates there but couldn’t be more happy for us boys to put on a good four-quarter display and get the four points.”

While the empty stadium spared him a possible hostile reception from the Tiger faithful, Butler explained the players didn’t let him off the hook. “I could hear everything the boys were saying to me so I wouldn’t have minded a crowd to maybe silence a few of them,” he joked. “There was a fair bit of chirp out there last night but all in good taste and a bit of fun.”

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Butler admitted that Coach Brett Ratten sought him out for some inside information in the week leading up to the game. “We spoke about it a little bit just a few different things about what Richmond likes to do,” he said. “Obviously, we came with a plan which was to match them in the contest and try to exploit them on the outside. We played a really good brand of footy last night and it was really pleasing that we did it for four quarters.”

One of five off-season recruits making an impact in his first season at the club, Butler explained how Coach Brett Ratten had made them feel right at home. “Obviously over the pre-season, we trained a fair bit together and Ratts has been so good at getting the whole group included and working on our connections and stuff like that,” he said. “So we feel like we are playing our role for the team and we are playing really good team footy at the moment. Ratts is awesome to play under and its exciting times going forward.”

Ratten’s influence also played a big role in Butler’s decision to join the Saints. “When I sat down with Ratts and Gags, [James Gallagher] the list manager there, it was pretty obvious what he wanted moving forward and just the type of bloke he is I just felt really comfortable around him,” Butler explained. “It seemed like St Kilda was a really good family club with a great history and looking for a strong future so it was something I really wanted to be a part of.”

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What did he think of his decision eight months on? “It’s pretty awesome,” he enthused. “Obviously we have so many great young players like Max King and Hunter Clark who are going to be pretty special players moving forward. A lot of the boys are around my age, so its a real young list. So the next few years are going to be exciting. We don’t expect to win finals or go to the Grand Final this year but definitely over the next few years we want to be pushing for that spot.”

Despite winning a premiership in his time at Richmond, Butler agreed that after six years in the AFL system he was now playing his best footy. “I have reflected on it and this has probably been the best form I’ve been in,” he admitted. “Over the last couple of years I’ve probably struggled to find that consistency at AFL level and I was in and out of AFL last year so it was hard but I’m just happy to string together a couple of good games and now I’ve got to keep it going. It’s been fun out there and I’ve really enjoyed it.”

While he and his fellow recruits were rightly receiving credit for their role in the Saints turnaround in 2020, Butler reserved praise for the impact an off-field recruit had had on the group. Rough [Jarryd Roughead] has been helping us forwards out a fair bit,” he said. “He obviously has a lot of experience in the game and he has been spending a lot of time with Max King as well to help him find his feet. He’s been really good to talk about pretty much any aspect of the game. He’s a great man and a great person to have around the club.”

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