Neil ‘The Bear’ Button – champion footballer, quality human being

 

 

Neil Alexander Button

 

Born:  28th July 1952

 

League Career:  1971 to 1985

 

Norwood games: 283 (163 goals)
Reserves games: 11 (6 goals)
Under 19 games:  19 (8 goals) – 1970
State games:  9 (5 goals) – 1972, 1973, 1974, 1977, 1979

 

Debut: v Central District (Elizabeth) – 29th May 1971
Finale: v West Adelaide (Football Park) – 21st September 1985

 

League Premierships: 1975, 1978, 1982
Ardath Cup: 1977
Advertiser Team of the Year: 1977, 1978, 1979, 1981
State Carnival Representative:  1972, 1979
Norwood vice-captain: 1978, 1979
Norwood Life Member: 1981
Norwood Hall of Fame
Norwood Team of the Century

 

1971 – Flehr Trophy – runner-up best 1st year player
1972 – Second Fairest & Most Brilliant Player, runner-up to Robert Oatey
1973 – Meritorious Service Award
1974 – Fourth Fairest & Most Brilliant
1975 – Premiership, 5 Year Certificate
1976 – Outstanding Services Rendered
1977 – Third Fairest & Most Brilliant, Ardath Cup
1978 – Premiership, Second Fairest & Most Brilliant – runner-up to Michael Taylor
1979 – Second Fairest & Most Brilliant – runner-up to Michael Taylor
1981 – Meritorious Service Award
1982 – Premiership
1985 – EA Johnson Service Award

 

Photo with permission of Norwood Football Club

 

When great ruckmen of the SANFL from the 70s and 80s are brought up, the names Rick Davies and Peter Carey are genuinely the first two mentioned for mine. It is a travesty of justice that Neil Button is not immediately included (also Mick Redden IMO).

 

‘The Bear’ was the consummate big occasion player. If there was a Jack Oatey Medal back then, Neil would have been a soda in the Legs’ magnificent drought- breaking ’75 flag win over the Bays. Neil won the BOG award in the Ardath Cup night series Grand Final when Norwood defeated East Perth in a cliff-hanger (winning $50k – huge money back then).

 

In Norwood’s thrilling one point centenary flag win over Sturt in ’78, no small part was due to Neil getting on top of Rick Davies in the second half – Norwood coming from 29 points down at three-quarter time. Of course, Sturt supporters appreciate Phil Gallagher’s brilliant mark and ice cold veins to kick the goal. In reality, 14.26 isn’t great kicking for goal.

 

Neil was moved to centre half-forward in ’82. He felt he never really got the full hang of how to play the position. I reckon Bear’s modesty shines through – let’s remember the selectors of Norwood’s Team of the Century picked Neil at CHF so that speaks volumes.

 

Neil rucking against Peter Haines of South Adelaide (photo with permission of NFC)

 

Football career

 

Neil joined Norwood in 1970 as an under-age player. He debuted in the league team in 1971. He played 283 games for Norwood, nine State games and made the All Stars team in 1972. He played predominately as a ruckman but, later in his career, at centre half-forward. He was part of three Premierships: 1975, 1978 and 1982. He loved his days at Norwood and considered the Club as ‘his other family’.

 

Neil was disappointed at times with some players’ attitude to State football. It seemed like some were more auditioning for a spot on a VFL list instead of doing their utmost for the famous red SA jumper.

 

While Neil was employed as a professional footballer by Norwood, he invested in himself and went to university full-time to become a teacher. His major areas were mathematics and physical education. This ensured he was able to support his growing family after his playing days finished. He began teaching at Wirreanda High School whilst still playing for Norwood.

 

As you can tell, the Bear isn’t big on talking about his football career.

 

Photo with permission of NFC

 

Life’s other adventures

 

For Neil, life after football became rich and diverse, if not unpredictable. Following his SANFL retirement, in 1986 Neil was asked to audition for a spot as a grinder in the South Australian syndicate having a crack at defending the Americas Cup. A grinder is a crew member on a yacht whose duties include operating manual winches (called ‘grinders’) that raise and trim the sails. It is a physically demanding role with a significant impact on a racing yacht’s overall performance.

 

Neil’s kayaking and swimming fitness enabled him to pass the test with flying colours, but he felt the syndicate could have been more professionally run so decided to relinquish the opportunity put to him. It would also have had a significant impact on his family who were well established in Adelaide at the time. By the time Neil left Adelaide, he and Gillian had four children.

 

Neil’s teaching career included stints at Sale Technical College, Gippsland Grammar School, Wodonga High School, St Paul’s College (Walla Walla), James Fallon High School (Albury) and finally at Moss Vale High School until he retired in 2013. Neil has always been grateful for his life at Norwood, because it afforded him the opportunity to re-educate himself as a teacher. It was the mathematics that enabled him to move schools easily around Australia and to live the life he has enjoyed since.

 

Neil continued to swim and compete with AUSSI (Australian Union of Senior Swimmers Inc.) in open water races from 1,200 metres up to six kilometres. He also took up wave ski competitions and flat water kayak racing. Neil competed in sprint racing as well as marathon racing, including the Murray River 200km and 2 Red Cross Murray Marathons.

 

While working at Gippsland Grammar School, Neil was the teacher in-charge of the Rowing Program, coached the school’s AFL team, and managed the Alpine Ski Race team. He was also heavily involved with the Duke of Edinburgh Program. Neil did most of his rowing coaching in his K1 kayak leaving the power boats to other coaches. The fitness level gained from following crews in the kayak allowed Neil to complete the Red Cross Murray Marathon for the second time (404 kilometre paddle from Yarrawonga to Swan Hill over five days).

 

Football coaching

 

Gippsland Grammar School had not won a senior game of football at interschool level before Neil took over coaching the team. He added the senior basketball team to the football team to create a team that won each of its inter-school matches and won the Sun Herald Cup in Melbourne.

 

In 1993 Neil was appointed assistant coach to the newly formed VSFL Under-18 competition from which prospective talent would be drafted into the AFL. When Neil was appointed, he was asked what his goal would be in terms of the number of players he would see drafted at the end of the year. Neil said he expected to have three players drafted and was told it would not happen. But three players from East Gippsland were, in fact, drafted (Mark Stephens, Ben Robbins and Craig Biddiscombe)! He took a week away from coaching to take his Alpine Race Team to Mt Buller in August of that year. This probably explains why he did not continue as an assistant coach the next year.

 

Riding bikes and moving on

 

Neil also has participated in the Great Victoria Bike Ride – taking students from Gippsland Grammar for a nine day riding and camping event each December. Most people have on their bucket list to drive the Great Ocean Road but Neil has had the opportunity to ride it on a push bike! He also rode from Bairnsdale in East Gippsland to Melbourne via the coast, again with students. A group of four Gippsland Grammar students said they wanted to do the Round the Bay in a Day cycling event (210kms). Neil and the four students trained doing approximately 80km a day in preparation and the ride took 10.5 hours to complete on mountain bikes.

 

When the Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in Alaska in 1989, Esso Australia (the major employer for Gippsland) decided to consolidate its operations, relocating to Melbourne. This had significant ramifications with not only jobs lost for Esso employees but also with less income being spent in the district. This caused other businesses to shut down with 263 families forced to leave the area, including 93 students leaving the school where Neil was working. There needed to be teacher reductions for the school to remain viable.

 

Neil took a redundancy package and moved with Gillian (who he’d married in 1972) to Albury, where he immediately gained further employment as a maths teacher. You can’t always predict what happens in your life or and what’s going to change in it. The important thing is how to use it positively to move forward in your lives.

 

Albury was a great place to live and work, especially if you were into outdoor life. Neil added competitive golf to his range of activities and continued with his snow skiing. Winter consisted of golf on Saturdays and skiing on Sundays. His golf handicap stabilised at 7-8 for the next 20 years.

 

After Albury, Neil and Gillian moved to Bowral. They both took up teaching positions at Moss Vale High School. Neil did another nine day bike ride around the Margaret River region of Western Australia at this time where he contracted Ross River Virus at a little place called Nannup. That rotten little free-loader stayed with him for the next twelve months. Despite retiring, he is still heavily involved with students in the Duke of Edinburgh Program at Moss Vale High School.

 

This sums up how Neil has always led a very active life since leaving football. Neil was willing to have a go at anything, influencing others whenever possible, in particular the adolescents he met through teaching. He may not be as nimble as he once was (was The Bear ever considered nimble?), but he has always found ways to compensate to continue to remain active and to mentor and support the adolescents in his life. He believes that he has gained so much more from them than they ever would from him!

 

Neil marks strongly against Port Adelaide (photo with permission of NFC)

 

Summing up, Neil was a revered figure at the Parade – loved by supporters, massively respected by his teammates and opponents alike, and admired by SANFL followers in general. Neil Button, champion footballer, quality human being. Thanks Bear!

 

http://www.redlegsmuseum.com.au/ON_FIELD/PLAYERS/BUTTON__Neil.aspx

 

All photos the property of the Norwood Football Club and used with permission.

 

P.S.

More on the 1972 trip overseas referred to in Neil’s comment below.

SA Football Record Year Book 1973 (From Swish Schwerdt collection)

 

Read more of Rulebook’s Norwood pieces (especially profiles) HERE

 

 

The Tigers Almanac 2019 is out NOW.
Order copies HERE.

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

Do you really enjoy the Almanac concept?
And want to ensure it continues in its current form, and better? To help keep things ticking over please consider making your own contribution.

Become an Almanac (annual) member – CLICK HERE
One off financial contribution – CLICK HERE
Regular financial contribution (monthly EFT) – CLICK HERE

 

Comments

  1. Ross Dillon says

    Malcolm
    I came to Norwood when Butto , Black , Gags , Woody , Kingo , Seekers , Phillip ,
    Craigy , Mike Coligan, Michael Olsen and Dr Lock ( Michael Gregg ) were in the latter stages of their apprenticeship.
    Turbs , Jimmy Michlanney and Jimmy Thiel were underage .
    Oscar , Rocket , Nicho , Von , Frankie Stemper had not yet been recruited .
    RO was in his final interesting year .
    28 was running the very popular Sams and leading the band whilst
    Poults was observed stepping off the plane from Darwin in the full length
    leather coat and big affro .

    Wally was running the show with total commitment to Norwood with
    guile , compassion and determination .
    Butto was John Nicholls , Rick Davies height , I think had rowing history .
    Neil was the most influential player on the ground in our 1975 Premiership ,
    and the equal of Big Rick in the 1978 Premiership .
    Just watch the replays to confirm .
    Butto had a big tank , a really good mark , very skilled as a ruckman .
    The bigger the game .. the bigger The Bear performed .
    He was an easy going big Bear .. but not one to be riled .
    Over his career , Neil did not get the accolades/ regard that Big Rick got
    but in performance , I rate him with Peter Carey re their capabilities.
    Peter obviously played many more games .
    Both are really good people .
    Butto and his family left Adelaide many years ago to teach in Gippsland and now near Bowral and unfortunately we do not see him often .
    I know all of us at Norwood know how important the Bear was to us .

  2. Lachlan Waterman says

    Interesting article. Button was always at the top of his form in September. Played a crucial role in Norwood’s renaissance in the 70s & 80s.

  3. Rulebook, great to be introduced to another interesting character from NFC. Put all these people you’ve profiled together and it’s much easier for outsiders to understand the strength of the club. Thanks for another interesting yarn. (I will mention this piece to Ben Robbins who lives around the corner – and was recently special guest at an Almanac lunch at the NFA. He is completing a PhD in psychology and has been working at North Melbourne FC.)

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Rossco superb greatly appreciated.Lachlan The Bear was definitely,Mr September.JTH yes I admit I annoy you and cause you grief but the most important thing I have learnt is every one has a story I admit I am in awe of Chris Grigg with his attitude to having,MND trust me the water works got a work out that day when interviewing,Chris and many times since.David Payne I felt it would have been hypocritical not to reveal about myself as well,Rick Neagle with his disability sector work just so much more important than footy.
    Wally Miller a truly remarkable man.Alan Stringer hopefully the article helped some people ( I know it did ) I can go on and on.Neil was a challenge in a different way not to be rude,
    Neil is a live the moment person not a footy nut like me summing up every person re interviewing and then writing about has been rewarding to get a phone call from a son of a individual I have written about saying the article had helped him learn about his dad and bought them closer together felt good.
    I admit I have learnt plenty and have to be careful what is revealed at times and yes my book is going to happen thank you
    ( thanks,Dave Brown for your help in particular re this article) thanks,Ian as well

  5. Peter Tisato says

    Great player, reliable

  6. Brilliant Rulebook. The halcyon days!! The blokes really come to life in your writing. It really is special.

  7. David Kempe says

    My favourite story on Neil comes from the late Robert Oatey…. Robert asked the Under 19? coach how Neil was playing…. “Oh OK was the reply… in fact we were thinking of dropping him this week…” Robert’s reply was… “So you wont mind if we pick him in the League side this week!!!!”

  8. Pete Dossett says

    Very very good Malcolm as a kid I loved Neil Button and as it turns out reading your article… still do today!!!

  9. Martin Rumsby says

    Loved watching him play footy and admire what he has done with his life after footy. Thanks Malcolm.

  10. Jeff Milton says

    Malcolm
    Interesting article and takes me back to when I first started regularly going to Norwood Oval. Rick Davies was an outstanding footballer and had such a high profile but he rarely seemed to beat Neil Button.Button’s dominance in the 1975 GF and last quarter of the 1978 GF was so important. Another player from that era that always seemed to give 100% to every contest.

  11. Malcolm, thank you for this player profile of the Bear. What a player he was. In a pack you would always back him to take the mark. I rate the bear and Big Bill Wedding as two of the all time greats of the Norwood Football Club. Reading Ross Dillon’s comments brought back so many fantastic memories of our great players. Neil Button will always hold a special place in my heart..

  12. Tim Wedding says

    I always get so nostalgic reading these articles. The Bear was and is such a community centred man, whose contributions to the Norwood footy club won’t be forgotten. A worthy member of the team of the century.

  13. Michael Rehn says

    A great article Malcolm,about an out and out champion. I was lucky enough to see the great Bill Wedding play, albeit in his twilight years, and I’ll always rate Big Bill as the best ruckman I’ve seen play, certainly Neil Button is a close second. Neil’s off field achievements during and after his footy career show his real calibre as a hard working, smart thinking man with a lot of character and determination. He could play a bit too, which is why he is a three time Premiership player, near three hundred games on the clock and a huge trophy cabinet. Neil Button is a great of Norwood !!!

  14. David Littlefield says

    Terrific article Malcolm, as a kid he was a player I always admired for his commitment to the Jumper. A tireless worker.

  15. Vic Itropico says

    Great read Malcolm, always interesting to find out how the player’s lives went after footy.

  16. Malcolm Ashwood says

    I was sent a email message from the greatest in Barrie Robran who said it was fine to send on to Neil
    it wasn’t anything sinister below will be Neil’s reply ( got permission to send on to Neil )

  17. Neil Button says

    Hi Malcolm,

    Regarding Barrie’s comment, I did break a bone in my ankle on the matting that was covering the cricket pitch on the oval. It was the start of my many ankle injuries during my career. Barrie’s observations of the beers was correct. The first offering was from Sturts, Sandy Nelson, who had a seven pint can of beer (I had never seen one of those before in my life) and knowing the damage I had done, a quick drink was warranted and appreciated. As I walked (hobbled) around the oval, further offerrings were made, and I obliged the offers. I didn’t really feel any pain by the time I got to the bench, so the miracle of beer had worked! I spent the remainder of the tour on crutches. I still managed to enjoy myself for the remainder of the trip, having many more beers and a good time in general with some good colleagues. It was most memorable!

    Regards,

    Neil

  18. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I had no idea of all of the (very good) things that Neil Button engaged in post his playing days. This tells that story beautifully – well done ‘Book (and Dave) and of course, Neil.

    I’m pretty sure that the South player in that action photo is Peter Hines. It looks like Hines (who wore #2). South’s Peter *Haines* finished in 1978 but Norwood didn’t have the numbers on the shorts until 1979.

  19. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Swish thank you and ironically that was exactly what I thought re Peter Hines and a South supporting mate was adamant that it was,Peter Haines may be I should have trusted my initial thought

  20. As you know Malcolm, I really love your player profiles, especially about our champion Redlegs. I could go on fovever how much I loved the Bear and was disappointed when he missed a year with a knee problem but he came back and continued to thrill. A suggestion Malcolm, I would dearly love to read your take on Justin Scanlon, yet another superb Redleg.

  21. Barrie Robran says

    Neil was selected to take part in an overseas tour organised by the Carlton Football Club after the completion of the 1972 football season.
    This was Carlton’s end of season trip, having won the VFL Premiership that year.
    They invited 5 players from S.A., five from W.A., one from Tasmania and one player each from the other 11 Melbourne based clubs to tour with them.
    Three Exhibition matches were played between this compliment of players and the Carlton Football Club, these games being played in London, Athens and Singapore.

    The first match was played at The Oval in London in which Neil played, but suffered an injury {not serious} and had to leave the ground early in the game.
    From memory, Neil was rucking in this game and changing with Footscray’s, Gary Dempsey in the forward pocket.
    Neil left the ground from the forward pocket position { a similar position to the right scoreboard pocket at Norwood} and had to walk around the boundary line to the coach’s / reserves bench situated on the left-hand wing at The Oval.
    The crowd that day to watch the match was estimated to have been around 12,000…..mostly Australians either living or holidaying in England {London} at the time.

    As Neil was walking around the boundary line making his way to the reserves bench, Australians in the crowd were giving him cans of beer, for which he was accepting gratefully. By the time he reached the reserves bench, he might have consumed three or four cans of beer. Let me add that The Oval is an incredibly big ground {I would venture to say, “not smaller than Elizabeth Oval”} and Neil probably wasn’t in any great hurry to leave the ground that day.

    I was on that trip also, along with M. Blight, Tony Burgan and Glynn Hewitt. Eldon Crouch was also on the tour, covering the three games for Ch 9.

  22. Angelo Mignone says

    Growing up whenever I thought of great ruckmen Neil Button was the first name that came to mind. He was my favourite Norwood player as a kid! An absolute legend! Loved the way he went about it!

  23. Great article as always Malcolm. Being relatively young at the time I didn’t see a heap of the Bears career, but my old man made sure I knew how great he was and regularly showed me the 75’ and 78’ Granny’s where it was easy to see his influence. The 82’ side was a pearler and Butts was a massive part of that, especially remember his efforts and output in the Semi that year. On another note, having spent so much time in and around the Gippsland, I hope all his loved ones have gotten through the recent devastation unscathed. Thanks for the memories Butts, and thanks for reviving them Malcolm. Cheers, JK

  24. Rick Harley says

    I thought he was an outstanding player but knew little of his other achievements except that he was a rower.
    Very difficult to win premierships without a stand out ruckman
    Button was an unsung hero but immensely critical to the success of the Legs through those premiership years
    How I wish the Cats had someone like him now . That’s why they have not and will not win a flag any time soon . Ottens was their most valuable player in the glory days — no doubt
    Button was in the same class. But …. I am biased because I played in the ruck. Howard Mutton often said the game starts in the ruck . The ruckman had the first opportunity to get his hand on the ball . Then it’s a matter of keeping it !!
    Simple but true
    Cheers
    Cheers

  25. Les Murcott says

    Fantastic article. He is my favourite Norwood player. 30 still is my favourite number.

  26. Marty Clifton says

    Mr Button, as i will respectfully call him was my high school, home room and maths teacher at Wirreanda High School. He was an icon at the school. He didnt say alot however, when he spoke people listened and when he didnt i wondered what i had done wrong?
    Not just a teacher at school, i guess a teacher of life

  27. Dean Burns says

    Yet another very interesting and insightful article thanks to you and congratulations keep up the great work
    The big bear was one of my favourite players

  28. Great article again. Seems like he was a great player, but an even greater person off the field too

  29. Barry Lewis says

    Malcolm Great write up ..loved watching Bear play & a mate of mine, a mad Port supporter (RIP) used to be referred to as “Russ” & I was always “Neil” when we talked to each other

  30. Excellent insight, Malcolm.
    In the early ‘80’s Neil was the key player at centre half forward for the game plan utilised at the time. The ball kicked into his area was consistently palmed to runners going past. Very team orientated and humble. I have no doubt Wally Miller and Neil Balme valued him very highly.
    Cheers Tim

  31. Great article. Neil Button was on of my and Dads favourite players. I had a Navy blue duffle coat with 2 badges on the front-Danny Jenkins and Neil Button! Such a solid player and it’s great to read that he was a solid bloke off the field too. Well done Malcolm on a great article.
    Shaun

  32. Thanks Rulebook in an era of champions “The Bear”was always my favourite and still is…as a young lad I’d get the Adelaide news and poor over the Redleg stats always going 2 the big fella’s 1st and as a young ruckman I’d copy his style hands on hips slightly bent over etc..Have got a wall of Norwood premiership memorabilia at home with a signed no.30 place proudly in the middle!

  33. Ray Higginbottom says

    As always a well constructed article Malcolm.I particularly enjoyed all of the information shared about his time away from football,certainly packed a lot into his time

  34. Nice read Book.

  35. Tony Foster says

    Bear was a great player and underrated by many except Norwood supporters. A very good mark, excellent ruckman and a lot more agile than a lot of people thought. A really enjoyable read Malcolm.
    He has done so much since football which I had no idea about. His continued sporting involvement and work with young people has been fantastic.

  36. David Woodcock says

    Even as a kid I could see how skilled the Bear was in ruck and around the ground. I remember him as a really smart player. What an amazing life outside of footy as well. Great stuff,Malcolm

  37. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Peter thank you.Dips greatly appreciated.David I admit I hadn’t heard that before pure gold.Pete thank you.
    Martin I thought of you re Neil’s teaching career.Neil and Barrie brilliant.Fisho all about time unfortunately work interferes.Angelo I agree entirely.JK v good parenting that and yes the bushfires just tragic I have been in communication with,Danny Jenkins re his farm on KI he has emerged ok but others around him not so fortunate which understandably is weighing,Danny down.Rick as always succinct and spot on.Les thank you.
    Marty I admit that’s exactly how I pictured,Neil as a teacher.Vic thank you.Milts just so vital the Bear re 75 and 78 thank you.Fisho well said.Tim glad to provide some enjoyment awesome photo with,Paul Kelly to thanks folks

  38. Malcolm Ashwood says

    David thank you.Swish greatly appreciate your add on as well.Dean greatly appreciated.Campbell thank you well said.Barry superb.Tim aka number 2 and 23 yes,Bear extremely humble not sure he appreciated how vital he was at CHF succinct and spot on.( need more events with,Tim Hoile playing highlights) Shaun glad you enjoyed,Danny in every redleg and Sanfl follower thoughts.Doug gold love the photo to.Ray yes a bloody busy life and thank you.TC thank you as always.TF well said and thank you enjoying following the Fosters overseas trip awesome photos.David yes a extremely smart footballer and thank you
    Greatly appreciated folks and any sharing of the article would be sensational as well

  39. Malcolm, earlier on I read, with great interest, Ross Dillon’s comments on Butto. He mentioned Bob Oatey in those comments and I would dearly love to read about his take on Oatey the Coach. At one stage he was playing Ross, would you believe, on a half back flank. A few years previously he tried to make brilliant half forward Bill Hutchinson into a half backer – this didn’t work out. He had better luck with Seekers. Another strange placing was his playing of Michael Gregg on a half forward flank. I could go on and on but Ross’s opinion would be much appreciated.

  40. Martin Leslie says

    Went to Sanfl games religiously as a boy and knew all the players. I still remember watching games in 1968. Neil Button was always a force to be reckoned with. I didnt know him but he was always a giving teammate for Norwood. As an opponent he was highly respected and never gave an inch. Good memories playing against him. No wonder Norwood regard him so high. Good story Malcolm

  41. Another good write up Rulebook. Thanks for sharing it. Loved hearing about the cross skilling into different sports.

  42. Ripping article Malcolm. This was the first number I had on my back. A great Norwood player and person

  43. Greg Baxter says

    Malcolm, as someone who grew up in Sydney, I just didn’t know a lot of these great players. I find their bios fascinating. Thank you for putting the time in, writing about them. The way you guys revere your Champions is fantastic. Great article.

  44. Interesting read. I love reading about what players do with their lives after footy. Love reading articles written by other footy club players. Bear was respected by all. Thanks Malcolm for all your hard work in keeping us all informed on so many players. Cheers

  45. Michael Charles Aish says

    Butto was underrated by some but as all the Norwood followers will agree was a champion. Only player i have seen in a league game try do a dropey( must to the annoyance of Balmy) i along with others had the pleasure of ruck roving to Neil for many years and he gave and he have us first look at the cherry more often than not. Another along the lines of 28 who would protect his players and square up when needed.Great career on and off the field. Always great to catch up with him when he heads over the border

  46. Jim Devitt says

    I wore his number 30 proudly on my back (duffel coat )a real champion of the game.
    Thanks.

  47. Mark Strange says

    Loved watching the Bear play.Such skills for a big man a rovers delight for sure.Such a stalwart for the Legs and I’m sure his skills won us a lot of games .Awesome read Malcolm

  48. Ben Robbins says

    nostalgia trip – thank you for this.

    In 1993 myself and two other schoolmates from Sale (Stevo and Morro) were driven to Gippsland Power training twice a week from Sale to Morwell by our asst coach – Mr Button, the local maths teacher. He was a big guy, big presence, but I had no idea of his footy achievements. Anyway, he picked us up from school and then then drove us to Morwell and back each night. We spent a lot of time together on the road together during the footy season. I was in year 11 and my schoolmates were both in year 12 so I didn’t know them well, but through our travels we developed a nice bond, the four of us. Neil a very wise, humble man. Based on this article, clearly he was a brilliant player, but I had no idea, I never knew until reading this. he never discussed it. What a legend

    Thank you for this article – nice to remember this time in my life!

    ==
    (comment posted here by David Wilson – that’s me in the photo – not Ben)

  49. Great tribute

  50. neil button says

    Thank-you, to everyone who has added comments to this article, I find it amazing that so many of you remember me. I think I need to point out that the reason I was able to do so much, particularly after football, was because I was a teacher. Being a teacher provides you with the opportunity to work with young people all year round. I was one of seven children, and our parents encouraged us all to play sport because they felt it would keep us healthy and keep us out of trouble! We had to look after each other, and take responsibility for each other, all of the time. Therefore becoming a teacher was an easy decision – no different from my upbringing! If I’d chosen a different career path, I’d obviously not have been able to do so much. But, as a ‘professional recreationist’ (as Gill calls me), I was able to help many students achieve what they wanted to achieve. If I had my time all over again, I’d still have chosen teaching, because it suited who I was and am, today.
    Thank-you for all the kind comments, they are greatly appreciated.
    Neil

  51. 7 Button’s!…now that would’ve been handy

  52. Luke Reynolds says

    Fantastic profile and a great read Malcolm. 283 games, state games as well and flags, what a fabulous career.

  53. Graham Cornes says

    A quiet, modest, high achiever who was a formidable opponent. Amazing record when you spell it out like that. Plus a significant contributor to society.
    But he could hurt you without really trying. I still have sore ribs and a headache!!

  54. Thanks for a great read Malcolm. It’s great to read about what has happened to players post football and the direction their lives have taken. Neil was such a large part of Norwood in the 70s and 80s and he has left a great legacy to the club and football in general. Clearly that legacy has continued many fold with students he has no doubt positively influenced.

  55. Loved teaching with you at Wirreanda. What a great PE staff we had back then. Hope all is good in your world now. xx
    Julie

  56. Tony Bulstrode says

    Great maths teacher. Hands as big as baseball gloves…. When he klipped you around the ear you knew about it.

  57. Dean Bogisch says

    A great story of a Norwood/SA champion. An amazing person.

  58. John harris says

    Neil was my son Corey Harris teacher at wirrieanda high school watched him play as a diehard red leg fan looked after his vehicle at shell Pt nourlunga great guy and a lovely family nice to hear your going well neil

  59. Jeff Petherick says

    Some of my funniest moments at Wirreanda involved a certain Neil Button. Yr 10 camp in Flinders Ranges. Sitting around the campfire!! Something like the scene from “Blazing Saddles” Butts had a non speaking role.
    Still brings a giggle to this day!!

  60. Deb Marnie says

    i barracked for the red legs(norwood) who he played for..Yes he was a tall man , like the hulk.Think a lot of girls at school liked him..lol

  61. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Fisho hope you enjoy the conversation with,Ross.Martin greatly appreciated from a very highly regarded and respected opposition player and yes we loved it when you belted,Dermie in the state game.Raf thank you and yes I knew you would appreciate how many sports,Neil was involved in and in rowing he may we’ll have been a Olympian like your good self.Raj good to hear and thank you.Greg greatly appreciated.Jan as always your passion is greatly appreciated. Aishy the droppie was against,Westies on a Sunday in 82 the look on
    Balmey’s face was priceless as was the colorful description back at the Redlegs club that night,Butto great protector and sensational in big games.Good to hear,Jim.Mark well said and thank you.Ben superb and I’m sure,Neil has got a lot of pleasure and is humbled by ex students comments.Brenton thank you.
    Neil it is a source of satisfaction for ex players to be reminded how highly regarded and well respected they were I reckon pretty obvious you were born to teach as well.Doug that would have been bloody handy.
    Luke fabulous career and thank you.Graham greatly appreciated and yes the bear got you a beauty at the bay not sure it was aimed at you tho modest high achiever is a perfect description especially in the 75 gf.
    Olaf I reckon there would be students where you have had similar impact and yes apt description re legacy.
    Julie great to hear from a fellow ex teacher,Tony I admit I laughed at that.Dean well said.John great to hear.
    Jeff would love more info,Deb the comments from a number of ex female students on the Wirreanda high school face book page was most amusing thanks folks greatly appreciated

Leave a Comment

*