He’s a six foot six, ex-AFL footballer who’s not afraid to wear Speedos. Channel Ten sports presenter Nick Butler is the perfect Straight Mate!
How did you transform from the footy field to the news studio?
Nick Butler: I wasn’t a great footballer, but I loved it and milked it for a long as I could. But one day Geelong footy legend Steve Johnson said, “Mate, how long can you keep doing this? Time to get a real job!” I think my parents were thinking the same, and it finally hit home. I was able to pull a job at WIN TV Ballarat and kept playing recreational footy. So, the Cats (Geelong) gave me that little push and I thank them for that. I loved Port Adelaide (Power) too. They were a rough and tough working-class club, and I was different coming right out of private school, but they were amazingly accepting. I loved the working-class ethic where you had to earn the respect. Port Adelaide grounded me, and the Geelong guys kindly pushed me into media.
It sounds like you had some great support and comradery at those clubs.
Yeah, the Geelong boys used to call me the Joker, because they could see my big smiley mouth from the other end of the carpark! I loved being a part of it all. I was a reserves player, but just to be in those amazing facilities, being given bags and tracksuits and sitting in the spa with the boys … it was like being a kid. And I got paid!
Tell us about the AFL expedition to China.
Port Adelaide were wanting to open a new demographic and revenue stream by expanding into China. I was presenting the news at Ten Adelaide and went along, but we lost our cameraman in the lead up to the trip. So, I managed to beg, borrow or steal one every day for a live cross. It was awesome and we almost got arrested as they’re not big on uncontrolled media in China. I was paying off cameramen with beers and owing favours to get on air. But I got it done and won a SA Media Award, which I’m really proud of. I loved the adrenaline involved, which is a bit of a parallel to the footy field. I’d love to go back. Shanghai’s got a party vibe, don’t you worry about that!
Channel Ten sports reporter Nick Butler
You also started the footy podcast Teams on 10
Yes, it’s gone really well with around 2.9 million views. I created it with Dylan Buckley and we got it up and running during the pandemic. I love Dill, he’s ten years younger than me with new ideas and we just kind of clicked. We’ve had some great guest stars and live acts. It’s a labour of love, it’s really cutting through and the Network Ten has been a great support.
“Seeing the reaction to Josh Cavallo coming out was amazing!”
Do you have any great Mad Monday footy stories?
Do I what! In all the best ones we always ended up nude! (Laughing) I don’t know where footballers’ obsession with nudity comes from, but at some point in the afternoon it would start. They were good times. It’s not so much about the blokey behaviour, but you just feel carefree celebrating the efforts of the year. We were basically carrying on like high school kids in our twenties. Can you imagine being at the work Christmas party and just nuding up for the sake of it? Once at Port Adelaide we ended up at a gay karaoke bar called La Sing, and what happens at La Sing stays at La Sing. But around 11pm when we were hitting the zone, we got text messages saying we had a time trial in two days. Did that take the wind from everyone’s sails!
An AFL player is still yet to come out. Do you have any theories on why that’s never happened?
The footy environment can be crazy and pretty immature at times, but they’re really inclusive. I know it’s a big topic about whether an AFL player will come out, and I think we’re ready for it. There has to be at least four or five gay guys in there. From the outside the clubs can be blokey environments, but I must say that if you were struggling at a footy club with anything like health, depression or your private life, they are great places to be. There’s always someone you can turn to who will put their arm around you. Just seeing the reaction to Josh Cavallo coming out was amazing. He got a hero’s reception and I think that would be the same in the AFL. The sport, fanbase and media are ready for it and I think it would be such a positive rather a negative. I’m really looking forward to that moment.
Nick Butler and co-workers at Channel Ten
So you have gay mates?
I have plenty between work, sport, friends of my wife and one of my best mates in school came out when we were around twenty-one. I love their company and there’s been some good times in night clubs as well. In fact, my going away party in Adelaide ended up in a gay bar called Mary’s Poppin. That was a real cracker as it was a drag queen night, and the party went up a cog! I remember a couple of conservative journos standing with me at 4am surrounded by drag queens and thinking this is really cool!
Being a good-looking roster, you must have been approached?
(Laughing) Yes, once or twice. I don’t know what vibes I give off, but there’s been a tap on the bum, a laugh and a chat, and it’s all cool. It’s always good fun and never awkward.
What’s your go to dance floor song?
love anything by Prince and Raspberry Beret gets me every time. I’ve got reasonably rhythm when I find my zone and that song suits my movement. But I’m a big guy, so I have to be careful with my dance moves. I throw my elbows around a bit and I’ve spilt blood on the dancefloor! Less is more!
Did you know there was a specific ‘shoulder drop’ dance to that song in the Eighties?
No! But I’ll be Googling it! If I can nail it, this could be my debut on TikTok!
“My going away party in Adelaide ended up in a gay bar called Mary’s Poppin.”
If you were gay, who would be the one?
Bradley Cooper. He’s my style icon and I even try to roll his fuzzy rough beard look on the news. I would have a crack at Bradley or even the Hemsworth brothers who are good looking boys!
Who’s your music diva?
Being a lad of the Nineties, it has to be Mariah. Hero always gets me, not to mention her Christmas album. I’m a real Christmassy kind of guy. She was also very hot in the Honey video, which really got my juices flowing. I must have been about fifteen then, but I still have the hots for Mariah.
Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
Stephen Quartermain has been great to me. He has a surging precision and is so professional in his delivery, whereas I’m a little bit loose and raw. Also from a broadcasting point of view, Rex Hunt has been a great mentor. People think he’s a crazy man who kisses fish and yells, but when he commentates footy he gets this clarity in his eyes. He’s so passionate and gives me positive feedback. He’ll send me the arcanum APE, which means accurate, passionate and entertaining. I kind of live my that now.
Have you heard RuPaul’s arcanum for Drag Race? Charisma, Uniqueness, Nerve and Talent?
(Laughing) Oh, now we’re really getting into acronyms! So, you’ve got to have a little bit of that about you? Well, you need that on the footy field!
Card-carrying member of the Speedo World Wide Appreciation Society – Nick Butler
Have you ever had an on-air wardrobe malfunction?
There is my famous autocue malfunction that follows me everywhere. I went viral early in my career because of a Swiss cheese moment where I was caught without an autocue, without a script and a director in my ear who had no idea what was going on. It’s had thousands of views and even made the New York Times! But my hair looked amazing! It was the best it looked in months, so if you’re going to stuff up the news and go viral, it’s best to have a good hair day! But as a wardrobe malfunction, I once forgot my shorts in primary school and did a cross country run in my jocks! But it didn’t worry me because I was so keen to get out there.
Now that takes charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent!
(Laughing) Yes! We were at the starting-line and I was determined I wasn’t going to miss my event. I thought I’d deal with the ramifications later.
“I don’t know where footballers’ obsession with nudity comes from, but at some point in the afternoon it would start!”
You participate and commentate at the Lorne Pier to Pub swim, but are you Speedos or boardies?
I’m one hundred percent Speedos. Speedos is not a dirty word. I’m a big Speedo poster on Instagram, so much so that I got invited into the Speedo World Wide Appreciation Society! I’m a card-carrying member! I feel comfortable in them and there’s a sort of pride in strutting around with them, even though you know you’re getting bagged. In fact, every time I post an image on Instagram, Steven Quartermain puts up green vomit emojis. He’s certainly not a member of the society!
Jocks, boxers or freeballs?
Nine-to-five I’m a fitted boxer operator, but I’m a nude sleeper. I like hitting the sheets naked. Maybe a t-shirt if it’s chilly, but I’m a freeballer under the sheets!
Follow Nick @nick_butler10