Almanac Rugby League – Vale John Sattler: One of South Sydney’s greatest


Arguably the most famous photograph in the history of Australian rugby league is the iconic image of Norm Provan and Arthur Summons that has been immortalised in the Provan/Summons trophy awarded to the NRL’s premiership team.


But not far behind it is the image of John Sattler being chaired off the field by Bob McCarthy at the end of the 1970 NSWRL Grand Final. Sattler famously played all but about five minutes of the match with a badly broken jaw. The rest, as they say, is rugby league folklore.


A rugged, as tough as they come competitor on the paddock, Sattler was know as a quietly spoken gentleman off the field. It has been suggested that his death this week at the age of 80 brings an end to an era which showcased the last of the really hard men of the code.


Russel Hansen, The Footy Almanac’s Rabbit in the Vineyard, penned this moving tribute.


Vale John William Sattler, 28 July 1942 – 20 March 2023

Today, Monday 20 March 2023, has been a sad day for rugby league, especially the South Sydney Rabbitohs community.

John Sattler had been battling dementia.

Like Mario Fenech.

Like Ray Price.

Like Steve Mortimer, and so many, many others.

‘Satts’ is known for captaining South Sydney to four premierships: 1967, 1968, 1970, 1971.

The name John Sattler became etched into rugby league folklore for playing 77 minutes of the 1970 Grand Final with a broken jaw.

Today, social media has been overflowing with tributes.

Tough, a great leader, a true gentleman.

This afternoon, during after school professional development, my phone began to light up with messages.

“An icon of our game and our club.”

“I hope our team fire up on Saturday and do it for him.”

“Satts passed away … bloody heartbreaking,” texted Hookesy.

John Sattler, the gentleman, was at his absolute humble best when the Queensland for South Sydney supporters group formed for the 2002 season – the year of Souths’ reinstatement to the NRL.

My great friend Rob Bush, the convenor of the fan group, organised game days at the Runcorn Tavern, where Satts was the publican.

Satts was the Patron of the Queensland supporters’ group.

Nothing was too much trouble for Satts. He had time for everyone.

When he signed all manner of red and green items, and there was always plenty to sign, he would carefully scribe his name in very neat writing, with a smile on his face.

In 2003, Rob organised for Satts to speak at a Sportsman’s lunch in Ipswich, before a Souths pre-season trial.

Rob rang me this afternoon and we remembered those wonderful days in Brisbane during the early 2000s.

I raised a glass of Barossa red, Mengler View 2016 Cab Sav – Shiraz, some of Faith College’s finest, to Satts.

Current Fox League/SEN identity Bryan Fletcher was a Souths player in 2003.

This afternoon on SEN, Fletcher recalled that pre-season trial when Satts led the team out onto the field.

The Souths players were suitably awestruck, Fletcher remembered.

I recall the weather that night as typically Queensland summer tropical.

The NRL trial game was played in driving rain at the North Ipswich Reserve.

The weather did not dull our enthusiasm.

Souths were playing and the legend himself, John Sattler, was in the house.

For the past two rounds of the NRL, Round 2 at Penrith, then last Friday night versus the Roosters, I have been incredibly frustrated by parts of South Sydney’s on field performances.

Today, as we mourn the loss of a Rabbitohs legend, I am incredibly proud to be a member of South Sydney football club.

R.I.P. John William Sattler

Glory Glory.

Rabbit in the Vineyard, SSDRLC Member 6199



John Sattler’s immaculate autograph


Sattler, Eric Sims and Bob McCarthy running the streets of Redfern




Photos courtesy of Russel Hansen.


To see a profile of Sattler’s career click here.


To read a short biography of John Sattler click here.


To read a tribute posted by the South Sydney Rabbitohs click here.


To read Martin Lenehan’s tribute from click here.


To read Adam Pengilly’s tribute to ‘Satts’ in The Sydney Morning Herald click here.


To read another tribute, this time from The Guardian click here.



To see the full draw for Season 2023 click HERE.

To read our library of rugby league stories click HERE.

To return to our Footy Almanac home page click HERE.


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About Russel Hansen

Russel Hansen Has worked in schools for over thirty years – as a teacher, coach, coach educator, sports coordinator and in pastoral care roles. Whilst at Brisbane Boys’ College as Director of Athletics, he led teams to six GPS premierships in track and field, and cross country. He has coached at all levels from school to international, most recently coaching a lad (100m personal best 10.34secs) to the Australian U/20 4x100m relay squad for the 2022 world U/20 championships. He is married to Heidi, a Primary school principal, and is father to two adult daughters. Twitter: @Russel_Hansen


  1. Russel Hansen says
  2. MichaelCoorey says

    Wow what a beautiful story on this truly amazing journey of a truly wonderful man
    I like you met him on numerous occasions and I too was in awe
    I was at all his grand finals-Souths- except 1965- still at boarding school-my Dad was there-but I believe he became the legend from 1967on- as captain-remarkable decision by Churchill-he was “big”-job well done

  3. Ian Hauser says

    A lovely tribute, Russel. The last of the hard men? Perhaps. But certainly one who gave to the code long after his playing days were done. RIP.

  4. John Harms says

    Terrific tribute RITV. He was much-loved and very much part of the folklore of the game.

    We moved back to Queensland in August 1972 and I had no idea of rugby league at all but when the 1973 season came around we would watch the Lang Park games on TV. John Sattler was in Brisbane by then and he was all the talk. Of course we had no appreciation of what had come before. But he had no problem living up to his reputation as a tough man – they were all tough so to be singled out meant something!

    It’s great to hear stories about his regard for those who follow the game closely and feel a personal connection with players.

  5. Russel Hansen says

    Thank you JTH, Satts’ Brisbane chapter was obviously significant, and yes, the BRL in the early 70’s was certainly no place for the faint of heart! It will be an emotional build up for tonight’s game #JohnSattler #GoRabbitohs

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