John William Sattler was born in 1942 at Telarah (a suburb in Maitland), moving to Kurri Kurri with his family when he was 12 years old. He attended Marist Brothers High School in Maitland. After completing school, John was employed at Meadows clothing store in Kurri Kurri.
When he was 16, John began playing Rugby League with Kurri Kurri Juniors, from where he progressed from their junior side straight into their first grade side in 1961. The following year he represented Newcastle against the touring Great Britain Lions, which the coal city won by 23-18. Sattler’s reputation as an enforcer grew from there.
Mr Sattler signed with Souths at the end of the 1962 season, playing for the Rabbitohs between 1963 to 1972 in 195 premiership games (all in first grade), scoring 12 tries. He led the Rabbitohs to five consecutive grand finals between 1967 and 1971, winning four of those five finals, and being runner-up in 1969. Sattler played the last 77 minutes of the 1970 grand final with a shattered jaw — and brought himself into Rugby League folklore.
He also represented City Firsts in 1969 (as captain), City Seconds in 1970-72 (all as captain), NSW in 1969 (four games, all as captain), Queensland in 1973 (four games, all as captain), and Australia in 1968-71 (15 games including four Tests, one as a Test captain).
He was inducted as a Life Member of the South Sydney Football Club in 1972, the first player to be bestowed with such an honour while still playing.
He then played with Brisbane Wests in 1973-74 (38 first grade premiership games, scoring four tries), and Brisbane Norths in 1975 as their captain-coach (13 first grade premiership games, scoring two tries).
A gentleman off the field and a brute on it, his many fans and admirers nicknamed him “Gentleman John”, even though he was one of the most feared players of his era. He was equally renowned for his toughness and courage.
During his entire playing career, which lasted from 1961 to 1975, Mr Sattler holds the impeccable record of unbroken service in first grade. Once he was promoted to first grade at Kurri Kurri, he was never dropped to lower grades.
Mr Sattler retired from Rugby League in 1975, later moving into the hotel industry and since has received great acclaim for his achievements in football.
In 2008, he was named in the list of Australia’s greatest players (1908 – 2007) which was commissioned by the National Rugby League and Australian Rugby League to celebrate Rugby League’s centenary in Australia.
In 2004, John was named Captain of South Sydney’s ‘Dream Team’ and in 2010 received a similar honour in Kurri Kurri Rugby League’s ‘Team of the Century.’ In 2012, John was honoured when the grandstand at Kurri Kurri Rugby League Ground was named after him.
In 2007, John was the Australia Day Ambassador to Cessnock.
His son, Scott Sattler, played first grade football with Gold Coast, Easts Sydney, South Queensland, Penrith and Wests Tigers. He was a member of the Penrith Panthers grand final side in 2003, which defeated the Sydney Roosters by 18-6, and Scott is best remembered for making one of the greatest tackles in Rugby League history during that grand final when he chased down and tackled Roosters winger Todd Byrne. Scott also played in one State of Origin game for Queensland in 2003.