Owen Frederick Butler
- 528Wallaby Number
Owen Butler was a tall and athletic natural sportsman who did not play his first rugby until he was aged 21. His spring, as evidenced by success in the high jump and basketball, enabled Butler to be a prolific ball winner at lineouts. Born and bred in Macksville on the New South Wales north coast, Butler excelled at tennis, cricket, athletic field events and basketball. He played cricket for his local A grade side at the age of 13, and at 15 he played tennis for the North Coast zone at the NSW Country Week. He also represented his school in the high jump and discus at State level. Towards the end of his secondary schooling he took up basketball.
In 1961 Butler accepted a scholarship to study teaching at Newcastle Teachers' College. He achieved Blues in tennis, basketball and athletics and in 1963 represented ACT in basketball. In 1965, aged 21, Butler had completed his teaching qualifications and although higher representative honours in basketball beckoned, he joined Northern Suburbs Rugby Club in ACT, primarily because the club had many teacher members and an active social program. Butler watched his first game of rugby in 1965 and a year later had represented ACT.
In 1967 he toured New Zealand with the NSW Country team and attributed much of his later success in rugby to that tour. Butler debuted for New South Wales against Queensland in 1968 and the following year was selected for the Wallaby tour to South Africa. His early form was rewarded with a Test debut in Johannesburg. In 1971 he played in two of the three demonstration-laden Tests against the Springboks before he started every match on the end-of-season tour to France. Butler retired from representative rugby having played six Tests for Australia in a three-year international career.
Butler won his first Test cap at lock in partnership with Stu Gregory in the 1st Test, 11-30 defeat to South Africa at Ellis Park. He locked with Peter Reilly in the 2nd Test, 9-16 loss at Durban. Butler then injured his right shoulder in the uncapped match against Northern Transvaal and was ruled out of the tour.
Butler and Alan Skinner combined in the middle row for the 23-3 victory over Scotland at the S.C.G.
Butler earned his final four caps in the 2nd and 3rd Tests against South Africa and alongside Gregory in the two away Tests in France.