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Gentleman John: The John Sattler Story

Name: John William Sattler Born: 26 July, 1942
Birthplace: Maitland, NSW Nickname: Satts, Gentleman John
Position: Front Row, Second Row, Lock Club Debut: Round 1 1963 vs. Canterbury, Belmore Oval
Club Games: 211 (1963-1978) Club Points: 36 (12  Tries)

If there is one image that is synonymous with South Sydney, it's of John Sattler hoisted upon his teammates' shoulders celebrating the 1970 premiership triumph with his broken jaw hanging on by a thread.

One of the Rabbitohs' most stoic captains, Sattler's impact was tremendous as he led the foundation Club to four premierships through the late 1960s and early 1970s.

A diverse forward who could play anywhere in the forward pack, Sattler's commitment was unquestioned as he led from the front in both attack and defence.

Originally from Maitland, Sattler played his first professional game for Newcastle against England as a 20-year-old. 

Impressing the South Sydney hierarchy, Sattler was offered a number of contracts but decided to join the Club after being inspired by his father's admiration for the Cardinal and Myrtle.

Sattler arrived at Redfern in 1963 and quickly made a name for himself after debuting in Round 1 against Canterbury at Belmore Oval that year.

Beginning his career as a hot-headed youngster with a temper to boot, legendary player and coach Clive Churchill appointed Sattler as captain, much to the surprise of the man himself, in what turned out to be a masterstroke.

The passion Sattler displayed helped to transform the side into one of the most formidable in the competition for a number of years. 

Playing 195 games for the Red and Green, his most famous moment came in the 1970 Grand Final against the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles.

In the fifth minute of the match, Sattler was unexpectedly punched by Manly prop John Bucknall, the force so great it broke his jaw in three places.

Teammate and fellow Club legend Bob McCarthy recounted the legendary feat, describing the event he witnessed right in front of his eyes. 


"I saw it happen first hand," said McCarthy.

"He was on the same side of the ruck as me and we moved up and Freddy Jones dummied our side and went back the other.

"But when he dummied to that Bucknall, 'Satts' couldn't pull out from running. so he just kept going and gave the bloke a bit of a shove and then turned his back.

"Unbeknown to him, Bucknall grabbed him from behind and hit him.

"I saw him go to the ground and then get back up and into position, so I asked if he was alright. 

"He tried to say something to me, but all I saw was a basement of four teeth and you just knew that he had broken his jaw.

"I don't know what it'd be like to play with a jaw broken, he was talking too so it must have been killing, and he was getting smacked after as well. 

"He was a tough man that Johnny Sattler."

Displaying a toughness that has been etched in Rugby League folklore, Sattler continued to play the rest of the match, leading South Sydney to a historic Premiership.

Sattler would go on to captain his country on three occasions in arguably one of the most hardworking careers in Rugby League.

Despite being one of the toughest players at a time where anything went on the field, off the field the inspirational skipper is affectionately known as 'Gentleman John' for his polite nature and approachable demeanour. 

Bob McCarthy

"He was a tough man that Johnny Sattler."

Another teammate of Sattler's on that day, Ron Coote, holds high praise for his captain.

"He was a great leader," said Coote.

"I can't speak highly enough of him, he was not only a great player and competitor but he is a great bloke too."

Ray Martin, journalist and Rabbitohs Board Member, famously described Sattler as "the iconic, archetypal Rabbitoh warrior who asked for no favours."

After football, Sattler became a publican on the Gold Coast and was named in 2008 as one of Australia's 100 greatest players to celebrate the Centenary of Rugby League.

In 2004 he was named as captain in the South Sydney Dream Team, so highly deemed is his leadership, and became the first person to earn Life Membership while still playing for the Club, in 1972. 

Tough and uncompromising on the field, approachable and kind-natured off it, there aren't many left like the man they call Gentleman John.  

Career Milestones

Premierships: 1967, 1968, 1970, 1971
Kangaroo Tour: 1973
Australian Test Captain
South Sydney Life Membership (1972)
Rated 37th in Rugby League Week's Top 100 Players (1992)
South Sydney Dream Team (2004)
NRL Team of the 1970s (2005)
69th Inductee into NRL Hall of Fame (2008)
Kurri Kurri Rugby League Club Team of the Century (2010)



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