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Anatomy of a debut — Dan Butler

Richmond’s Dan Butler made his debut in Round 1 against Carlton after spending two years on the list. He didn’t shy away from the big stage, gathering 19 disposals and kicking two goals. He looks back on the week and the game in an exclusive column on

I don’t think I ever expected to play in Round 1, although it was something I was aiming for. I had a solid pre-season, but there’s so many players and we have a lot of depth so I wasn’t expecting it to happen.

The Sunday before the game, ‘Dimma’ got everyone in after training and let the boys know that I’d be debuting. It was obviously really exciting for me and nice to get the recognition from my teammates.

It was pretty good to find out early in the week. Usually, you find out on the Tuesday, so it was good to have a few extra days to organise things with the family and all of my mates.

My friends and family were rapt for me when they found out — they know exactly how much hard work I’ve put in and they couldn’t wait for me to get out there.

Early on I had a lot of knee injuries, so to play my first game and get a good run of health behind me has helped my confidence. It has proved to me that I can play at the highest level, and I’ve spent some time reflecting on how far I’ve come.

The build-up was pretty intense due to the media coverage, but I still managed to mentally and physically prepare and soak it all in. I slept really well the night before because I was excited, not nervous.

As soon as I woke up I didn’t want to exert too much energy, I needed to treat it like a normal day so I slept in, got a coffee and went for a walk which are the normal things I do. It just felt better to stick to the normal routine I got used to while playing VFL.

It was amazing to set foot on the ground for the warm up. That may sound like a simple thing, but seeing the crowd and getting out there is quite surreal. I also used it as a chance to familiarise myself with everything.

Walking out to our positions was a crazy feeling, especially walking past some of the Carlton players like Marc Murphy and Bryce Gibbs. The fact that I would be lining up on Kade Simpson or Sam Docherty made me feel excited, and the nerves started to go away. I tried to take it all in my stride.

I was expecting to receive some lip from the opposition because it was my first game but nothing really happened which surprised me. It was nice to get involved early on with a goal, courtesy of a handball from Dusty. As I was running near him I tried to get in his vision and pray that he gave it off to me, and it was really good of him to do that.

I actually didn’t expect him to give it to me, it was more hope than anything else. I definitely thanked him on the ground after it. He’s an amazing player and he gave a few off in the goal square.

It was probably the most intense game I’ve ever played. Compared to the VFL, it was more free-flowing and there was plenty of running involved. I was pretty damn sore afterwards.

The best part of the experience was getting the Gatorade shower and singing the song afterwards.

It was definitely the best day of my life — it’s something I had been working towards — so to debut and get the win was incredible.