Black grandfather, white grandson – how Butler's Wales call-up almost never happened

Colin Dixon and Chester Butler
Rugby League World Cup on the BBC
Venues: Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea
Dates: 27 October to 2 December
Coverage: Watch live coverage and highlights on BBC TV, Connected TV, online & the BBC Sport app and listen to live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live.

When Chester Butler told Wales he was eligible to play for them through his World Cup-winning grandfather, they didn’t believe him. After all, Colin Dixon was black and Butler is white.

“But it hit them when I showed them the evidence and they said: ‘Wow’,” the 22-year-old explained.

On Tuesday, the Halifax player was chosen by Wales for the impending World Cup having never played for the country before, or even been included in their training squad.

His agent had tipped off the Welsh authorities after Butler revealed the family link – producing passports and wedding certificates to prove it – and he had a call a week ago from team manager Bob Wilson putting him on standby for coach John Kear’s 24-man party.

“Then two or three days ago he rang me up again, I was asleep, I was still in bed, and he said congratulations buddy, you’re going to the World Cup,” Butler said.

“I just couldn’t believe it, I thought wow, I’m off to the World Cup.”

Butler is travelling down under as part of Wales’ campaign that pitches them against Papua New Guinea, Ireland and Fiji in the group stages.

He has cancelled two planned holidays, but says he had no hesitation in order to play for the team that Colin Dixon dominated in the 70s. And even his given name has links to his grandad.

“The family story goes that my mum saw Chester Williams, the South African rugby union winger, play and thought he looked like my grandad. So when I came along, they called me Chester.” he said.

Chester Williams, who Chester Butler is named after<!–<!–[if lte IE 8]><![endif]–>

‘I’ve heard he was a big hitter’

Dixon was capped 30 times by Wales and Great Britain between 1963 and 1981. A star with Halifax and Salford, he was part of the 1972 World Cup-winning GB team.

Butler never saw his grandad play. He was born a couple of years after the Welsh legend’s death in the early 90s. But he has heard plenty of the stories.

“My mum and uncle – his kids – have said a lot about him. He’s a very missed man. A lot of people knew him,” he said.

“I’ve heard he was a big hitter, a strong carrier. He played all over the shop. He was horrible on the pitch, but a teddy bear off it.

“I grew up playing union, it’s only just come about in my life through playing league.”

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