South Sydney legend John Sattler. Picture: Jerad Williams
South Sydney legend John Sattler. Picture: Jerad Williams

How Sattler got the most famous jaw in rugby league


IT'S probably lucky we did not meet in person because I'm not too sure I would have been able to stop myself from staring at his jaw.

That is the most famous jaw in rugby league history.

John Sattler was captaining South Sydney in 1970. Ten minutes into the game at the SCG, Manly's John Bucknall got to Sattler and broke his jaw in two places.

Sattler pleaded with teammates "to just hold him up until it does not hurt''.

It did not stop too quickly and Sattler was forced to play 70 minutes with a smashed in face.

At halftime, becoming aware that he was hurt, Sattler told his team he would deal with the next person to stop him getting the ball.

Surely a threat not to ignore.

John Sattler. Picture: Jerad Williams
John Sattler. Picture: Jerad Williams


Sattler is rugby league royalty. He played 195 games, won four premierships as captain for Souths, lined up on one Kangaroo tour and captained his country three times,

In 1973, Sattler left Sydney, came to Brisbane to play for Wests, and brought that famous jaw with him.

The young Panthers had finished first the year before in 1972 but gone out in straight sets to Easts and Valleys. With Sattler coming north to Brisbane and joining them, they must have been jumping out of their skin.

"A lot of the players had started to leave the Rabbitohs at the end of 1971,'' Sattler recalled.

"Everyone was getting disillusioned with the committee celebrating our success yet the players were not looked after.

"After 1970, we were eating cold pies at the Grand Final celebration while they were eating at the best restaurants.

"I was in hospital getting my jaw wired and the players were relaying this to me when they visited me in hospital.

"That was the start of Lurch O'Neill, Cootey, Elwyn Walters, Mike Cleary leaving.

"I came off contract and couldn't see myself playing against the Rabbitohs and the money I was being offered as a 30 year old was too good to knock back for my family.

"The contract from Senator Ron McAuliffe to come to Queensland was $43,000 per year for two years. Big money back in 1973."

It would not be completely happy days at Wests Panthers. Sattler took his skills to Bishop Park and Norths Devils in 1975.

"I loved it at Wests. Not sure I was ready to coach but I could see Wests emerging as a good side,'' he said.

"I would have liked to have my time over again a few years after retirement and try again."

Sattler's Devils days finished in 1975 with a finals campaign that started with a 15-2 win over the Dolphins in the qualifying final. That earnt Norths a shot at Wests in the major semi but the Devils lost 21-11 and bowed out a week later to Redcliffe 25-2.

Sattler reflected on who left a mark on him.

"Darryl Brohman. What a player,'' he said.

"When I played for Wests in 1974, I kept hearing about this young skilful front rower for Norths.

"I played his debut against him. I watched him closely and he had everything at 17.

"I purposely did not go after him in the game or the scrums because by then in my career I thought I needed to worry about the younger fitter players coming after me.

"Bobby Bax came to me in the off-season of 1974 and asked if I could come over to mentor Darryl and a few younger players.

Darryl Brohman. Picture: Zak Simmonds
Darryl Brohman. Picture: Zak Simmonds

"He was one of the reasons I went to Norths so I could play alongside him. I am glad that I did because I loved playing with Darryl.

"His skill level was next level and he was tough for a young kid. I had and still do have so much respect for Darryl as a player and as a person.''

Sattler fondly remembers some Ipswich and Queensland forwards that were keen to make sure they left their mark on the Rabbitohs' champion.

"Robin Orchard was a nightmare to play against and Greg 'Oscar' Vievers was such a great player,'' he said.

"Tough, skilful and high knee lift. Always knocked someone out.

"The Morris boys were great players. Had every skill. Des is one of the best never to play for the Green 'n Gold."

Sattler would always remember his time with Queensland coaching champion Bob Bax.

"What a man and what a coach also," Sattler remembered.

"When he convinced me to play 1975 he said he couldn't pay me anything but see what we have at the seasons end and I promise I will give you something.

"I didn't expect anything but loved playing for him.

"At the presentation night he tapped me on the shoulder and said to follow him to the car park.

"He opened his boot and grabbed a bag and gave it to me.

"He said don't open it till you get home, so when I did get home I opened it and there was some big bills in there. He was man of his word and then some Bobby."


Bob Bax
Bob Bax

Sattler got to pull the Q over his head and captain Queensland in 1973 but it was not be a great series for the Maroons with Queensland losing all three games and not scoring a point the whole series.

"We still had some very good players,'' Sattler said.

"Wayne Bennett was a young fast fullback, Johnny Lang was a very good crafty hooker, and Greg Veivers was tough and mobile.

"Johnny Grant, I had a lot of respect for as a player and so did the Blues players.

"Ronny Raper was another and Robin Orchard was a good, tough player that rattled a few.

"But, the players weren't able to keep up with the guys that played in the NSWRL week in week out. I recall saying: 'If we get in their face early we may upset them and take them off their game'. It did not work."

Young talent time

THE Panthers John Young may not have been able to sing or dance in the 1970s but he certainly was part of his own young talent time at Lang Park every weekend.

Young plied his forward trade under legendary Ipswich Bulimba Cup forward Mick Scully at West End in Ipswich before coming to the attention of Brisbane glamour side and getting the phone call from Wests Panthers to come down and try his luck in Brisbane.

"I only played for two clubs my whole life, West End and Wests in Brisbane." Young recalled.

"I wanted to follow Ipswich guys like Johnny White and Ian Robson and play for Wests."

Bulimba Cup would be where Young would learn the tricks of being a forward in a tough era of forwards.

"Playing for Ipswich was massive for me. I played for Ipswich in the last year of Bulimba Cup in 1972 then went to Wests for 1974.

"I spent my whole life in Ipswich until I moved to the coast in 1989.

"My wife is from Ipswich and we lived at Eastern Heights.

"I never moved from Ipswich. I would catch the train to work in Brisbane then go over to Wests to train and then home at night.

"I was still at home when I first went to Wests. I had it too easy with meals and things at home."

It would not be too long before Young would find glory at Wests and Lang Park became a home.

"What a great time. Wests, Lang Park, Sunday afternoon in the 1970's it is hard to beat. Take me back.''

West climbed from the basement to the penthouse in 1975.

Winning back-to-back premierships with wins over Redcliffe and Easts and Young would be taking it up and tackling anything that moved.

In 1975, Wests would seal their first grand final spot in 19 years with a 21-11 win over Norths. Leading the charge while the Panthers defended their line for 30 tackles was Young.

The Panthers did such a job on the Devils that they were ripe for the picking the following week and lost to the Dolphins 25-2.

It would be the Panthers and Dolphins that would play in front 41,000 people at Lang Park in the grand final.

The Panthers would lead the pack at half time 19-4 and the Dolphins would score 20-7 in the second half to come up short 26-24.

West had their first premiership since 1954.

However, one was not enough for Wests and Young and they double dipped again in 1976 beating Easts 16-1 in front of a packed 37,000 at Lang Park in September.

"I got lucky to be honest,'' he said. "I came to Wests in 1974 and we didn't have a great year but I enjoyed being coach by John Sattler and then 1975 and 1976 under Ron Raper we won two grand finals.

"Raper was a great motivator. He was terrific at working people out.

"I was surrounded by great players; terrific players they made me look pretty good.

"Great mates is what I have out of that era, I still see Greg Oliphant all the time, Oliphant and Wayne Stewart were in my wedding party when I got married.

"They are my best mates."

Young was tempted to come out of retirement to be part of the new Ipswich Jets in 1982 and their entry into the State League.

"Yeah I did the whole pre-season in 1982 but then just said no not for me I am done and walked away happy,'' he said.

Maroon Mentality: 203 great footy stories

AUTHOR Rob Burgin quit his job to write the book he has always wanted to write.

He will tell you it is not a rugby league book but it tells the story of 203 Rugby League players.

Maroon Mentality will be available in two weeks. It will tell the story about the 203 men to play Origin for Queensland.

"For me the most recognisable team in Queensland is the Queensland Origin team, I wanted to tell their story," Rob said.

"The original Origin players are now in their 60's or older and if we don't get their story down soon it will be lost."

It is 203 different stories about how they got to that night and kick off playing for Queensland.

The book contains 5000 reference materials, over 100 new interviews and 150,000 words.

Burgin had clear goals for his book.

"It's the story of children of fruit pickers, railways workers and butchers and hidden history and tragedy,'' he said.

"There are stories about children hitchhiking to training and not knowing where there parents are at any time.

"Somehow they overcame that they found a way and they go to play Origin for Queensland.''

Burgin wanted to find the untold stories, the hidden anecdotes that had fallen away and would be lost if someone did not write something down.

"I wanted it to be a story you could pick up and read about the lesser-known players and understand them in a new light," he said.

Burgin looked for common threads, things that linked players.

"As I spoke to players and wrote down their story a lot had the mutual story of death in their family at an early age," he said.

"That's one of the things I found interesting what is common among these 203 players. They all came from different cities or towns but what brought them to play for Queensland.''


The little maestro Allan Langer.
The little maestro Allan Langer.

Burgin also noted a strong Ipswich connection.

"Ipswich came up all through the book. Players have links to the city," he said.

"Alf, everyone had some link to Alf and watching him play, the later players idolised him and watched him and the older players remember seeing him for the first time in the State League.

"Gary Coyne was great for telling me about his Ipswich upbringing and the history of Ipswich rugby league."

Cooper's stat

ALLAN Smith FOG number 7 - 80 minutes, 30 possessions, nine runs, two tackle busts, 12 tackles.

Queensland only had 43% of the ball in the first Origin, and missed seven more tackles than the Blues.

The Blues made 52 more tackles than Queensland - 246 compared to 194. Ipswich's Rod Morris made 38 and topped the tackle count for Queensland.

Queensland's kicking game was outstanding gaining 383 metres compared to the Blues 111.