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Where are they now: Tony Butterfield

The history of the nib Newcastle Knights is kept alive by the many men who have pulled on the red and blue jersey since the Club's inaugural year in 1988.

Knights TV has tracked down some of the best through the years to see where they are now and what their lives look like after footy.

To coincide with Voice for Mining Family Day coming up, where the Knights encounter the Sydney Roosters for Round 14, it was only fitting to hear from Old Boy Tony Butterfield, who is a great ambassador for mining, and currently works for Mine Super.

Butterfield signed with the Knights in their inaugural year in 1988 and remained with Newcastle for 13 seasons, retiring in 2000 as the Club's most capped player, a record he later surrendered to Andrew 'Joey' Johns.

The influential prop was also part of the Knights 97' premiership winning team and named in the Club's team of the era in 2007. The former NSW Blues player admits there were a lot of great memories back then in the red and blue.

"They were the great days, the happy days and they were pioneering days for the Club and the town," said Butterfield.

"It was very important for us to establish a culture and connection with the community which we did quite well, and we had some great times in the grand finals and were very close in a couple of other premierships."

While football was his great passion back in the 80s and 90s, the Knights enforcer was very conscious about what life would hold for him after football. He wanted to make sure he could set himself up for life.

"I was very conscious in the mid 90s, having suffered a few injuries, so I undertook a university degree at Newcastle University and I had a public relations business running along the side," Butterfield added.

"Being out of the professional game, I went into advertising with Enigma advertising which was an interesting segway into the workplace and around that time I was approached by a lot of the senior players from the NRL to establish and lead the Rugby League Players Association to push for better conditions, minimum wages and education and support; essentially an industrial agreement.

"That's what I dived into for the next seven years post league so from the time I came to Newcastle, it was rush rush rush all through the 90s, and for a good two decades I didn't come up for air, so it was interesting times."

Butterfield is now currently working for Mine Super as Manager, Employer Engagement, NSW.

"It was a great career move for me, it was probably the polish I needed on my corporate profile to really develop my skills in the corporate world," he said.

"I've been here nearly for nine years, my role essentially engaging with employers, stakeholders, with unions, all third parties related to the employer and for the mining members to take financial advice to ensure financial health assists them in their job and their everyday life.

"It's quite an empowering job when we see members who are struggling financially and if we can get a positive outcome for them and encourage them to participate in their financial affairs, then there is a knock on effect to their family and into the workplace."

The former Knight admits there has been many industries with links to the Knights over the years but none more synonymous than the mining industry.

"Mining of course has been a massive part to our history in the Hunter and a lot of players that I played with in the early days had a lot of ties in the industry," stated Butterfield.

"The industry has presented some challenging times, with peaks and troughs, but to see mining supporting the Knights is a nice connection and one I'm very pleased to see."

Having earlier worked for the Players Association, Butterfield was well aware of the importance of balancing life after footy.

"Rugby league whilst a professional game, where some could make good money, many didn't, and many ended up with life-long injuries and the vast majority didn't involve themselves in study or improving their prospects off the field post football," Butterfield said.

"These days with strong enterprise agreements, players are being established more financially, which is good to see."

Butterfield is looking forward to Round 14's Voice for Mining Family Day where the Knights take on the Sydney Roosters. Where Members and fans are urged to don their fluoro's to mark the occasion, he maintains it's a great day to pay tribute to all those mining families across the region.

"The countless number of families that are connected, the countless number of businesses that are interconnected around the mining industry supporting it," he explained.

"It sustains this community in a major way, as it has done for a long time, and there are challenges out there around mining but essentially mining supports many thousands of families and in the absence of an alternative, I think it will do so for some time to come."

As a former Knights Butterfield also continues to be an active part of the Club's Old Boys and feels it's important to keep the Club's history alive.

"It was something we recognised very early, and we were very close in those early days, people came from everywhere and there was a real mish-mash of talent, style and personalities," he added.

"A lot of those guys moved on and for guys like myself who remained, it was quite a sad moment to see that those early pioneers had moved on, so we approached the Club that they should at the very least provide a box that former players could come and view the games and still be considered as part of it.

"The Old Boys was built in to the icon that it is today and it's been a great job that everybody has put in, but the Old Boys is a very special little group and it should continue to grow."

Butterfield is also excited about the new look Knights team in 2018 and what's ahead for the Club.

"The club has been handed back to the community, and certainly an important message to the community that this is your team," Butterfield commented.

"I've been to most of the games and everyone is enjoying their football and really that's what it's all about, that you bring a bit of joy to the community and the community comes together."