The Super League war was brutal.
It was a hard-fought war with heroes and villains on both sides, and the main battleground: Newcastle.
The nib Newcastle Knights shaped as a crucial piece of the puzzle, with the pulling power of the Johns brothers and other Knights stars undoubtable.
Enter Knights captain Tony Butterfield.
When the time came to negotiate a deal with either News Limited or the ARL, the man known as ‘Butts’ stepped up to not only represent himself.
“Matthew and Andrew Johns were both on minimal dollars, five or ten grand, I think Matty might’ve been on 20,” Butterfield told the Our Town Our Team podcast.
“They told me they didn’t have a manager, and then asked if I would do it for them.”
Butterfield lacked any real managerial experience, however that didn’t stop him jumping at the offer in an effort to help out his teammates when the time came to talk numbers with ARL.
The man representing the ARL was Phil ‘Gus’ Gould, who was under strict instruction from the powers that be to secure the Johns brothers at any cost.
“Gus called us in…and he said ‘right, listen. I’ve got to get this deal done and get back to James (Packer), because you guys are so important’,” Butterfield said.
“I was thinking ‘okay, we’ll be able to do Joey and Matty a good deal because they’re desperate to get them and time is of the essence’.
“I said, ‘let’s do me first Gus,’ but he said, ‘mate I’d like to do you, but I’ve got to get back to James, so why don’t we do Matty and Joey’.
“I think combined I negotiated a deal worth around $2.2 million, which was ridiculous money.”
Having negotiated the mega-deal for the young and as-of-yet unproven Johns brothers, Butterfield was understandably keen to negotiate a similar deal for himself.
However, he wasn’t so lucky.
“They (The Johns brothers) left the room high-fiving, then closed the door and Gus said, ‘sorry Butts I’ve got nothing for you,” he said.
“I said, ‘what? You’re paying reserve graders 50, 60, 70 grand out there’.
“He said, ‘fine, I’ll give you 40 grand’.”
Butterfield and Gould had history, with the former attempting to lure the fourth most capped Knight of all time to the Sydney Roosters during his stint at Bondi Junction.
“The problem was, a couple of years earlier ‘Gus’ had asked me to go to the Roosters,” Butterfield said.
“We had just had our second child and it was a little bit challenging, so I put a decent number to him but he thought I wasn’t worth it.
“I think Gus was still a bit dirty.”