Hang Five with Nat Butcher
After a stellar 2016 season with the Roosters, young-gun Nat Butcher returns to the squad for another pre-season to continue his push towards the NRL.
Butcher trained with the NRL squad for his first ever pre-season ahead of the 2016 season and was one of the star performers on the training paddock.
His good form over the pre-season saw him selected in the NRL Auckland Nines squad where he shined with the young side and even bagged a four-pointer against the Melbourne Storm.
He went to Dubai with the first grade squad for a high-performance training camp ahead of the World Club Series against Super League club the St. Helens Saints.
After a full pre-season training with first grade, Butcher began preparations with the Holden Cup squad in the week leading up to Round 1.
"A full pre-season with NRL squad helped a lot," he said.
"Getting to train with the older boys and learning from them the way I did gave me a lot of confidence heading into the season with the 20s.
"I understood that I was training with bigger bodies in the NRL, which made going back to 20s difficult, but it also gave me a lot of confidence."
Butcher would go on to have a stellar regular season in the Holden Cup, which saw several highlight plays from the young-gun lock and call-ups for representative honours.
The regular season was successful for the young Roosters, though consistency would see them finish just shy of the top four on the Holden Cup ladder at the conclusion of the regular season.
"It was a great group of players that we had. We bonded really well and had the understanding of the team game.
"There was a bit of inconsistency on the field sometimes, but to do what we did to get this side to where it got just shows how tight we were as a group."
He was the 18th-man for the Junior Kangaroos, and would go on to play in the Under 20s New South Wales side that collected a big win over the Queensland.
"It was full on!
"I played 75 minutes in the middle, so I was gassed for the most part.
"It was a tough experience, but they were a great group of players and they helped me a lot."
In Round 26 of the regular season, Nat Butcher received the call-up to play first grade after a string of impressive performances at the back end of his 2016 campaign.
"It was probably the most surreal moment of my life, like an actual dream come true.
"I remember getting the heads up from Robbo and had to start getting ready straight away because of the five-day turnaround.
"I still remember how nervous I was leading up to it, but the Coaches and players helped me out and really helped me to perform at my best on the day."
When recalling what he remembered most about his debut, the speed of the game was the most notable difference.
"After about two minutes I was blowing pretty hard because of the speed.
"I spoke to Connor (Watson) and Matto (Ryan Matterson) about the speed of it, but when you get out there the adrenaline is pumping, the crowd is going off and the atmosphere is that big, you get tired pretty quickly."
After the buzz from his debut started to settle down, it was time to adjust to the realisation that the NYC finals were here and the Holden Cup Co-Captain would have to play a big role in his team's chances.
When the Roosters put on a clinical performance over the Canberra Raiders in the first game, it began to set in that the boys were a good chance of going all the way to the big dance.
"We always believed from the start of the series that we had the team to win the comp.
"The first week in Canberra really took us to another level off the field as much as it did on the field.
"The last few weeks before the finals, we weren't in good form.
“We lost to the Dragons, got touched up by the Sharks and had a draw against Brisbane, but the trip away to Canberra to get away from everything to be a group helped us to gel together.
“We had the same routine the next week when we played Cronulla.
“I believe that the time we spent together bonding as a team was a big reason we got those results against those teams.”
With successful victories over the Raiders and Sharks to book themselves a spot in the Grand Final qualifier, the Roosters would face a mighty challenge against a tough Dragons outfit that beat them twice in the regular season.
After a slow first half, the Roosters would have to fight their way to a victory if they were any chance to be on the big stage the following week.
With the help of Co-Captain Grant Garvey, Butcher put on an outstanding second half that would see the Roosters come-from-behind to down the Dragons in fine fashion.
It would be the first Holden Cup Grand Final in Roosters history, and the occasion appeared to be too much for the Roosters in the first half.
They seemed likely to put up a fight against the top-of-the-table Panthers in the big Holden Cup decider, but they found themselves going into the break with a 6-28 point defecit to overcome.
On top of that, his Co-Captain Grant Garvey would be ruled out of the second half after succumbing to a shoulder injury late in the half.
"I didn't feel like I had to be the guy to step up, because we did that as a team.
"Guys like Victor Radley, Poasa Faamausili and Brendan Frei just lifted.
"They did a lot more than their usual job and it showed big in that second half."
The Roosters kicked up several gears in the second half to score 24-unanswered points to win the Holden Cup Grand Final, and the Co-Captain was the one to kick off that scoring run with a barging effort.
"We still had belief that we could win when Barnesy (NYC Coach Anthony Barnes) kept going at it at half time.
"He was blowing up, and it was something we needed to believe we could come back and win it.
"We had to start strong, that's what we did and the rest is history."
Some would call it a dream season for the young lock foward, with two representative call-ups, making his NRL debut, a spot in the Holden Cup Team Of The Year, winning the Holden Cup and also named the best on field in the Grand Final.
"I was happy with the 2016 season, but that's over now and it's time to focus on 2017.
"There are going to be a lot more challenges ahead, I understand the goals that I want to achieve and I'm looking forward to starting the season."
Butcher is currently doing rehab on his injured shoulder which required surgery in the off-season.
Slowly increasing his workload, Butcher is confident that he is on track with his recovery and is itching to get the season started.
“My goals at the moment are to get my shoulder right, get back training with the team and start gelling with them as soon as possible.”