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Johnny Graves score four in a Grand Final vs John Sattler plays with a broken jaw

It's one thing to beat Manly, but it's another to score four tries against them in a Grand Final and claim the Premiership - that's exactly what speedster Johnny Graves did back in 1951. This moment goes up against probably one of the most iconic images in rugby league, which has gone down in South Sydney folklore. It was when John Sattler had his jaw broken and played on to win the 1970 Premiership! Only you can decide which moves on!

Johnny Graves’ 4 Tries in Grand Final, 1951 vs Manly

Top Moments - John Graves Grabs Four in a Final

1951 was another grand season for our club and the Rabbitohs were no doubt the supreme team of that year. During the season proper Souths lost only one game (22-19 to Easts) and drew one (16-all with St. George), which attracted a crowd of 50,009 on Jubilee Day and at the time was the largest crowd to watch a normal premiership match. Johnny Graves also scored a club record of 28 tries this season, only beaten by Les Brennan in 1954 (with 29 tries).

Souths finished the normal season as minor premiers with eleven points ahead of second-placed Manly. St. George with 21 points and Wests on 20 points completed the semi-finalists. But one bad day can threaten to wreck all the previous good work that was achieved throughout the season, and fortunately for the Rabbitohs they had theirs in the first semi-final against St. George, who gave Souths a real towelling – winning 35-8 in what Tom Goodman was to call ‘the greatest League upset of all time’. Manly easily defeated Wests 37-9 in the second semi-final. This meant that under the rules Souths as losing minor premiers go straight to the grand final, and the two semi-final winners play-off to see who will challenge them in the big match.

In the final, the fledgling Manly side produced their own upset when they defeated Saints 18-8 to earn the right to play Souths in the grand final. The League was forced to play the grand final at the Sports Ground, owing to the SCG being prepared for the upcoming cricket season which started on Monday. This was also the first grand final to be played on a Sunday. 

Manly were always going to struggle against the powerful Rabbitohs side, especially when their captain-coach and star player, Wally O’Connell, was ruled out of the match with a broken hand. The Sun noted on the day of the grand final that Souths were slight 5 to 4 on favourites to win their 13th premiership, but nobody predicted the onslaught that eventuated. In a clever and efficient all-round display, Souths completely overran a disjointed Manly outfit that looked like a ship without a rudder, especially in the second half when the Rabbitohs began to take charge.

The final score of 42-14 seems out of character for a grand final, and Souths’ winning score is still to this day the most points ever scored in a grand final by any team – tries were worth only three points in those days and under current scoring rules the final score would be 50-16. It was indeed a record-smashing day for Souths.

Souths scored a record eight splendid tries, four by their Kangaroo left-winger Johnny Graves, who missed another try when he knocked-on (which would have equalled the club record of 5 tries in a match). His first try was scored when crashed through several Manly tacklers and then beat Gordon Willoughby and Ron Beaumont in the race to score in the corner. He scored another try late in the first half, and the other two were scored in the second half. Graves’ four try tally is still a grand final record for an individual.

The Little Master, Clive Churchill, gave one of his finest displays ever as he repeatedly menaced Manly’s defence. He created several scoring opportunities and fed the left wing of Johnny Graves, who was eager for the chances that came his way. The Little Master’s incredible form was highlighted when Mr John Quinlan (Board of Control member) said this to Churchill in the dressing room: “Congratulations on the greatest exhibition I have seen since Dally Messenger.”

Former Kangaroo fullback, Frank McMillan, who was ‘The Sunday Herald’ judge, gave the man of the match award to Souths second-rower Bernie Purcell (with a special prize of £10). Besides kicking 7 goals from 9 attempts, Purcell led his forwards in devastating fashion. His runs paved the way for three of Souths’ five tries they scored in the second half.

Souths were so dominant in the second half that the closing stages were turned into a farce when their forwards Denis Donoghue and Ernie Hammerton took the last two kicks at goal. They mimicked the style of French star fullback, Pui-Aubert, as they casually dug a divet in the ground, placed the ball, then turned their backs on it – and just like the French star, they landed the goals.

John Sattler Plays On Despite Breaking Jaw, Grand Final 1970

Top Moments - Sattler's Broken Jaw

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

Sattler’s jaw was broken in three places after a big hit from Sea Eagles prop John Bucknall in the third minute. Despite his injury and in a moment described as the most celebrated display of heroics in Rugby League history, Sattler refused to leave the field. Suffering from excruciating pain, Sattler managed to make 20 tackles, one offload and touch the ball 29 times while missing only one tackle and making one handling error.

After 77 minutes and numerous suggestions from both his teammates and Coach Clive Churchill to retire to the bench, Sattler showed the strength of his Captaincy and led his side to a memorable 23-12 Grand Final victory. That moment made Sattler part of rugby league folklore as he went on to play virtually the entire game carrying the injury.

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 him, and he was getting smacked after as well’.

"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."

The South Sydney legend Sattler has come out since and said that he has forgiven Manly forward John Bucknall for breaking his jaw in the 1970 grand final.

“I prepared to make my way back into the defensive line when Bucknall hit me with a brutal swinging arm.” Sattler said in his autobiography ‘Glory, Glory’, written with News Limited journalist Peter Badel.

The pair have never spoken since the incident, even though a former Manly player attempted to set up a meeting to call a truce. “But I wanted nothing to do with it.” Sattler said.

Sattler also said he ran into the late Manly coach Ron Willey who revealed he had told Bucknall to get the Souths’ skipper off the field.

“By nature I am one to let bygones be bygones, and I don’t see the sense in holding grudges,” Sattler said.

He said some people might even argue that Bucknall did him a favour in a strange way. “The incident was the making of me, they say, given the manner in which I have since been glorified for playing 77 minutes with a broken jaw,” Sattler said.

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. 

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


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South Sydney Rabbitohs respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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