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Souths To Pay Tribute to John Sattler, Giant and Gentleman, at Accor Stadium on Saturday Night

  • Souths to pay tribute to one of the Rabbitohs’ and rugby league’s greatest players, John Sattler;
  • Minute’s silence followed by minute’s standing ovation;
  • Rabbitohs will run out teams in three grades;
  • Free travel to and from Olympic Park on Sydney Trains, Metro and Light Rail is included in all game-day tickets and Rabbitohs Memberships.

Special Report by Matt Cleary

John Sattler played so hard in the 1970 Grand Final against the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles that he finished the game with the Rabbitohs logo nearly torn off his jumper.

The ‘torn rabbit’ became a logo of its own; a symbol of Sattler’s defiance and spirit in a decider in which the courageous South Sydney captain played 77 minutes with a broken jaw courtesy of a punch by Sea Eagles forward John Bucknall.

In different times such ‘rough justice’ was understood; certainly Sattler understood – the game was officiated by men as much as referees.

Yet Sattler wouldn’t go down; wouldn’t show the Sea Eagles that he was hurt. He stayed on to lead. And when he was chaired off by team-mates after Souths’ 23-12 win, a legend was born.

The ‘torn rabbit’ on Sattler’s chest became a symbol of the man’s – and by extension the club’s and Sydney’s working-class inner-city southern suburbs’ – toughness, resilience and never-say-die spirit.

Sattler said that “in grand finals you’ve got to have your legs broken to stay off, I think.”

The Rabbitohs’ greatest player is considered to be the Immortal fullback Clive Churchill.

Yet in a foundation club that since 1908 has turned out so many champions, John William Sattler, who passed away this week aged 80, is first picked in the front row in the Rabbitohs’ all-time greatest XVII.

Indeed in 2004 he was named captain of Souths’ ‘Dream Team’. 

Call him pride of the ‘Pride of the League’.

On Saturday night at Accor Stadium, in honour of the great man – by chance in a game against Manly – the Rabbitohs players will wear a torn rabbit logo on their chests.

They’ll also wear a 1970 replica jumper with a white collar above cardinal and myrtle hoops. They’ll wear black arm bands. Manly will, too.

Souths will run out through a Sattler family guard of honour before a minute’s silence is followed by a minute’s standing ovation at the 13th minute (to signify Sattler’s number) led by Rabbitohs fan group ‘The Burrow’.

Such is the legend and legacy of ‘Gentleman John’.

South Sydney chairman Nick Pappas said: “If anyone is to epitomise the true spirit of the South Sydney Rabbitohs it is John Sattler.”

“He bled red and green. He would do anything for his team-mates. He never took a backwards step. He always led from the front.

“He was loved by everyone connected with the Rabbitohs, whether it be one of his former team-mates who he led to Premiership glory, or the man in the street who loved South Sydney just as much as he did,” Pappas said.

Sattler played 195 games for Souths, all in first grade, which included six grand finals. He captained the club in five of them and won four – 1967, 1968, 1970, 1971.

The losses were to St George Dragons (in 1965) and Balmain Tigers (1968).

Sattler captained Australia against Great Britain in 1970. He likely would have captained Australia in the World Cup in England but for his jaw that he’d held together during the game by pushing it into his mouthguard but which appeared to fall out while out talking to media post-match.

Sattler’s name lived on through the generations – and in their deeds.

In 2003 Sattler’s son Scott made a brilliant and match-defining cover tackle on runaway winger Todd Byrne in Penrith Panthers’ 18-6 grand final win over Sydney Roosters.

Eleven years later, in scenes eerily reminiscent of Sattler’s heroics in 1970, South Sydney captain Sam Burgess suffered a broken cheekbone when he clashed with fellow England forward James Graham ten seconds into the Grand Final against Canterbury Bulldogs at Accor Stadium.

Like Sattler, Burgess stayed on the field and led the club to their first premiership in 43 years. One of the standout images post-match is the embrace of Sattler and Burgess.

In another nod to the past, Saturday’s tribute match will be the last of a triple-header, with South Sydney’s NSW Cup team playing Blacktown Workers at 3:05pm and Souths’ Jersey-Flegg (U/21) team taking on Manly’s at 5pm. 

Accor Stadium gates open at 2:55pm.

If there wasn’t reason enough to get in early, the main match at 7:35pm will feature a mouth-watering battle between another pair of rugby league giants, Latrell Mitchell of South Sydney and ‘Turbo’ Tom Trbojevic of Manly.

Free travel to and from Olympic Park on Sydney Trains, Metro and Light Rail is included in all game-day tickets and Rabbitohs Memberships.

All match day and ticketing information at the Accor Stadium website.

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