NYC star a chip off the old Butcher's block
Having represented the NSW Blues in the Under-20s State of Origin curtain-raiser on Wednesday night, Nat Butcher says his next mission is to play his way into the Roosters' first-grade squad before the end of the season.
Butcher has been one of the star performers in the Holden Cup this year, leading the Tricolours in virtually every key statistic, and is widely regarded as a future NRL star.
Should he make the step up to first grade, the 18-year-old would become the second player in the family to achieve the feat after his father, Blake Butcher, represented the South Sydney Rabbitohs 23 times from 1989-93.
Butcher hails from Malabar in Sydney's south-eastern suburbs, right in the heartland of South Sydney territory where he was named Harold Matthews Player of the Year and also represented the NSW Under-16s side while playing for the Rabbitohs.
But after a tug-of-war, Butcher joined the Roosters at the start of the 2015 season leaving behind younger brother Egan, who is set to play in the halves in the junior competitions from next season onwards.
The hard-working lock has no regrets about the move, especially given he used to idolise players such as Brad Fittler and Craig Fitzgibbon when he was growing up.
Convincing his dad to switch allegiances should have been an ordeal, but Butcher told NRL.com it was a surprisingly smooth process.
"Dad's alright about it now. He's been very supportive and he's on board. I think I've converted him from a South Sydney man to a Roosters fan," Butcher said.
"He loves coming to our games. He comes every week and loves watching us play footy. He's very supportive and he's always been a great person to talk to. He gave me a lot of tips early in my career and he's been my biggest supporter ever since.
"He's been a big help to me in terms of my defence, especially the first contact. I've always been a bit chesty. He always had good dip in defence and great first contact from what I've seen, and he's always been into me about it."
Blake Butcher's words must have resonated with his son, because the 18-year-old has produced some outrageous numbers in 2016.
The Roosters lock is ranked first for runs in the Holden Cup with 256, second for metres gained with 2,506, fifth for tackles with 550, in the top 10 for offloads with 23, and has crossed for four tries.
Numbers like those suggest he is on track to make his NRL debut sooner rather than later, and for Butcher that would be a dream come true.
"I've still got to play some consistent footy in the 20s and tick off some little things in my game before I can make that a reality, but I'd love to make my NRL debut," he said.
"I sat down with Mac (Roosters assistant coach Steve McNamara) at the start of the year and it's something I've been working on ever since.
"I spend time every week in the reviews looking at what I need to improve, what I'm doing well and what I can do to get closer to playing NRL.
"The forwards in the middle like Kane Evans, Sio Siua Taukeiaho and Issac Liu are constantly helping me out at training along with all of the coaches.
"They've taken me in with open arms so I love this club and want to debut for them."
An NRL debut wouldn't just help realise his dreams; it would also put an end to his father's claims that he is the best Butcher in the family.
"He used to love bringing out the old clips, and the worst was when they'd show one of his old games on Fox Sports, because he'd always record it and replay it all the time," Butcher jokingly bemoaned.
"He's always onto me because he's played NRL and he's played a few games so he's always saying that he's the best in the household, so I'd love to take that title from him."
This article first appeared on NRL.COM