The South Sydney Rabbitohs are mourning the passing of one of the Club’s former trainers in Lionel Potter, who passed away last night at Prince of Wales Hospital just four days short of his 85th birthday.
Mr Potter is part of South Sydney folklore in the most ironic of ways, inspiring the Rabbitohs to an iconic victory over the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in 1984 and unsettling opposition sides for many years.
Lionel Henry Potter was born in 1936 and he was Club Conditioner between 1979 and 1992. He was also on the Coaching Panel between 1992 and 1999.
Many people regard the 1980s as the toughest era of the sport with the modern game losing some of its inherent toughness due to the changes in rules and the match review process. Mr Potter was the inspiration behind a play-call used by the tough Rabbitohs outfits of the 1980s to unsettle their opposition which led to some famous victories.
Souths were battling financially at the time and had to come up with a different style of football to unsettle their opponents. Their new coach Ron Willey was an old-style coach and he didn’t mind ‘putting on the biff’, especially when it was done at the right time of the game and in the right place on the field.
Uncompromising forward Dean Rampling was chosen to make the call during the game to signal when the fight would start, usually from a scrum, when the opposition wouldn’t be expecting it. Dean decided to call ‘Henry’ out loud before the fisticuffs started, to alert his players that it was time to use the tactic to rattle their opponents.
Rampling named it after their trainer Lionel ‘Henry’ Potter - who was the loveliest bloke in the world; the quiet, unassuming type, but with a spirit that would never allow him to back down no matter what the odds were against him.
It was the naming of the punch-on call after the gentlest of men that was the true genius of the play and the inspiration behind one of the Club’s most famous victories, a 22-18 Preliminary Semi-Final victory over the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in 1984.
Manly were raging hot favourites after the Rabbitohs had to qualify for the Finals with a mid-week play-off victory over the Canberra Raiders, playing Manly just four days later. The momentum of the game changed when ‘Henry’ was called that day and the victory, inspired by Mr Potter, belonged to South Sydney.
Lionel also taught some of the younger players in the team how to box in the ring, which also came in handy during their games.
On behalf of everyone connected to the South Sydney Rabbitohs, we offer our deepest and most sincere condolences to the family and friends of Lionel Potter at this difficult time.