For one of the most loyal stalwarts of West Coast’s 32-year existence, Grand Final week will hold a new perspective.
Over the course of his 14-year, 166-game career, Sam Butler played in three Grand Finals and received the ultimate success in 2006, but after retiring at the end of 2017, he has played an interesting role this time round.
Unlike many other players who transition into coaching, Butler has treaded a new path with his next career, accepting a role within West Coast’s commercial partnerships team.
Instead of planning Collingwood’s on-field downfall, Butler has been working with the commercial partnerships and licensing team to coordinate the important internal admin required during such a busy week.
“We’ve had to finalise the ticketing process and helping people out to get over there, particularly our corporates and sponsors,” Butler told AFLPlayers.com.au.
“It has been absolutely crazy and has been fun to be part of. People are so excited and have been going through Hong Kong and also New Zealand just to get to the game.
“The work will all be done come the game so people in my position can sit back and enjoy it, and hopefully we can get the win.”
Butler admits that when he was a player and was battling through injury, he struggled to watch his teammates and felt quite conflicted about the result.
But that feeling has dissipated since he has joined the ranks of retirement and has come to grips with being a spectator.
“I don’t have that feeling at all anymore,” he explained.
“I just want them to win and to experience what I was lucky enough to experience all those years ago.”
When he departed at the end of last season, it was assumed West Coast would endure some pain after losing a glut of senior talent, with the likes of Drew Petrie, Sam Mitchell and Matt Priddis joining Butler into the next chapter.
“Anyone that says they’re not surprised by the way the team has played in 2018 is kidding themselves,” he joked.
“Maybe the removal of the expectation and pressure that came with the team last year has freed them up. I’m more surprised than anyone, but I’m as happy as anyone, too.”
Butler’s memories of the last Saturday in September differ, with two close encounters in 2005 and 2006, and then a disappointing showing in 2015 where the Eagles were completely outplayed.
The questions from media since they qualified for the Grand Final last Saturday have revolved around lessons learnt from three years ago, and the 32-year-old believes there will be some differences when it comes to their preparation this time round.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Hawthorn, because they outplayed us and were the much better team on the day,” he explained.
“But there were a lot of things that we needed to change. There were elements of our preparation that we could have done better and we have identified that.
“You learn a lot from your losses and especially a Grand Final one. I can guarantee the players learnt a lot, but whether that translates into performance is yet to be seen.”
And when the ball bounces, Butler will swap his playing gear for a seat in the stands, and will do so with more anxiety than he had as a player.
But he has a sense of confidence with how his team will fare.
“I don’t like people talking to me, and I will be locked in on the Grand Final just like most fans.
“I am stupidly confident at the moment.”