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Interviews Rugby League

int02 - Text of an Interview with the Legendary John Sattler. Satts was interviewed by David Garnett for the website Queenslanders for South Sydney

Posted by... quigs eraofthebiff - on ... Saturday, June 02, 2012


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Text of an Interview with the
Legendary John Sattler.
Satts was interviewed by David Garnett for the website
Queenslanders for South Sydney.
(The EOTB recommends a visit to the Q for SS website)

Wednesday 28 August 2002
By David Garnett
Courtesy of the Queenslanders for South Sydney Website

Many Souths fans talk about Souths legends and players of yesteryear, especially as our greatest memories come from the eras where Souths were supreme forces to be reckoned with on the field. The 1920's, 1930's and 1950's spelt complete success for Souths, accounting for 12 of our 20 premierships. But it was in the mid 1960's and early 1970's when a team came out of Redfern to win a premiership and dominate the competition for another era. After 12 years of silence, a team stuck together, and in true Rabbitoh spirit, worked their way to the top. Today this legendary team is much talked about. Mainly because there are many people from that team and who were watching this team play, alive today. They can still recall the facts and exact stories, and whom given the chance to talk about it, never hesitate to tell you it was a great time to be a part of our legendary club. One such person who I recently interviewed, would arguably be Souths most popular legend today. It is fitting that I believe that his legendary status, stems not wholly from his playing ability, but from his spirit and his loyalty to his club, his mates, his family, and most of all to the South Sydney fans.

Gday John, do you want to start by giving me a brief history of your football career?

Dave, I went to South Sydney a long time ago in 1963. I had 10 seasons with them. I won 2 and a half games in my first year there. We won 2 and a half games, the last one being against Easts. It was a deferred game because of rain. In 1964 there was a coaching change. Bernie Purcell became the coach and then the young blokes started to come through. The McCarthy's, Standons and the Cootes, then John O'Neil came down from Gunnedah, then Paul Saite a few years later. Bernie Purcell coached us, he was a tremendous coach. He could handle anybody that had a bit of a difficulty, or if there was any problem with discipline he could handle them. Even though he came from the city he had a real bushy style.

How did he handle them?

He just didn't let them get away with any shit. If blokes wanted to put shit on him he wouldn't get cranky at them, he would just say ok that's fine and walk away, and then they wouldn't be able to say anymore. He was just one of those coaches that said "oh well, if its too hard for you, then its too hard for me, when your ready, then you come to me". He never sacked anybody, but there was only a couple of blokes like that, mainly Kevin Longbottom, who was our big fullback. Tremendous player and a great bloke. Sadly he has passed away now. But longy would get the shits because Bernie would say, "oh you missed a tackle" or something, and then he would walk off at training. And then Bernie would say "ok darls, you better tuck your skirt in your pants before you come back". So that's how it all started in my time there, and then we just grew as a wonderful team and a wonderful team of mates. With an exception of a couple we've all solidly stuck together over the years, just like the supporters.

Were you on big lucrative contracts then?

I came from a little place called Kurri Kurri out of the coal fields of Newcastle.

Is this were you were born?

No. I was born in Maitland 9 miles from Kurri Kurri. My first year in a-grade, in Kurri Kurri, I was 17 and a half or 18. I was given 57 pound. Out of that we had to buy our own shorts, jumpers and boots. The next year we played the pommies in Newcastle and we beat them at Caltex Cove, and we got a 25 pounds bonus each for beating them and including 25 pound bonus I got 52 pound for my full season and played every game.

In those times, was that much money?

No. But it wasn't a little amount either. Then I went to South's in 63 and I thought I was a billionaire, they gave me 650 quid, 40 pound a win, 30 pound a draw and 20 pound a loss. I signed for the same money in 65 and 66.

So were you on a 1 year contract?

I only wanted to sign for 1 year because I had never been to Sydney before and I was terrified of it , you know. But they said to sign a two year contract, because it might take a year to settle in. So I signed for 2. I signed for the same amount in 65 and 66. At the end of the 66 season, decimal currency had just come in of course, Charlie Gibson who was the Secretary at South's at the time, George Hanson was the treasurer, said "did you want to go to another club or are you happy with us". And I said no, no, no I don't want to go. I don't want to go anywhere else. So they called me in, and in those days you had to be 21 to sign a contract, so my dad came down to sign it for me. They said "ok its your turn to sign you're a big boy now, are you sure you don't want to go somewhere else". And I said no way I love it here. So they said have we got a deal for you, they said we'll give you 1300 dollars, which converted was the same money. And 80 for a win, 60 for a draw and 30 for a loss, which again converted was the same money. Then in my last two years at South's I got 10000 dollars but no match fees. That was the total of my go with them, but we thought we were millionaires, and we were because we were playing for Souths.

Whenever I have met you, for all your legendary status, you seem so down to earth and easily approachable. Is this something that your parents taught you?

There is four in our family and my two parents. I have a brother and 2 sisters. My 2 sisters and brother are all back in Kurri Kurri now. Dad worked in the coal mine, he was up in the power house and would work the machinery which would pull the big cages up from 1000 feet. It would pull all the coal up and put the horses down at the start of the week and pull them up at the end of the week. He more or less worked in the mine all his life.

Who would be the best player you have played with or against?

The best player I have played against and with is Graham Langlands. Closely followed by Ron Coote and Bob McCarthy, then Johnny Raper and Gassnier. They were great players and it was a wonderful era with many great players. They talk about the players of today and there are some terrific players today. Andrew Johns is a great player and would have been a great player in any era. But a lot of the others that they rate, wouldn't do Langlands, McCarthy and Rapers boots up. And I mean that sincerely. They played under harder conditions, and produced bigger and better rugby league that these guys are playing, with the exception of Andrew Johns.

Is that because he comes from Newcastle like you?

No, No. Actually his dad comes from Kurri Kurri same town as I came from, then they moved to Cessnock, where Andrew and Matthew were brought up.

There is something about how Johns passes it to his centres and then wraps around them in support, you just cant coach that can you?

Apart from his skills, Johns, he's a real tough little bugger. Billy Smith who was the great St George and Australian Halfback was tough like him, and a really good wear and tear sort of a player. Probably didn't have the real ball skills that Johns has, but he was more like another 2nd row forward and he was a great player.

Who was the toughest player you have played against, not necessarily the best?

Kevin Ryan was probably the real hard tough old nut.

Who did he play for?

He played for St George then finished of with Canterbury, Captain Coach in 67. We played them in the grand final under his coaching and beat them. He was tough. Noel Kelly was very ,very hard and tough. But blokes like Raper and Langlands, they were really tough blokes. They could get injuries and play. They would go away on tour and they would play a game today and they would be carrying a crook rib or something really serious, or a broken hand, and they strap it up go round again. And when the tour was on you could play 4 games a week.

Tell me about the 69 Grand Final which you lost.

They (Balmain) staggered into the grand final by beating Manly in the semi. George Arubana intercepted a ball with a minute to go. They were never ever going to win and be in the grand final. Then when we played them, we were about 200 to 1 on. The whole atmosphere in the grandstand was different. Then when we were in the dressing shed, John O'Neill said, "it's a joke playing these cats, we should just go and get the shield from the sideline. Go and get the shield and go into the College and go and have a drink". That was the old pub where everybody went, on Botany Road there. One of the Branighans was walking around saying, "Hey chicka do you know what one the first at Randwick." Well that was never on in our sheds you know.

Is his son Luke Branighan the player we have just signed from Cronulla?

There was Ray and Arthur. Ray was a great player, gee he was a great player. Arthur was a great player too, but he wasn't as dedicated as Ray was. Luke is Arthur's son. Luke is a great little player.

On the broken jaw incident in 1970 grand final, what happened after the game?

They took me to straight to hospital. It broke through the middle of my jaw, through the teeth, and also broke either side. So the middle one they pinned, and they wired the rest of it together. I was wired together for about 14 weeks.

How did you get on with eating?

My wife Barbie, used to do a full baked dinner and then crush it all up in the blender and then strain it and add milk to it so you could drink it through a straw. And how long did you have to do that for? 14 weeks. The reason I was tied up for that long is because when I went to sleep, for some reason, I had this feeling that someone was trying to restrict me and I would wake up with a startle and struggle about and break the wires. And if it was 2 in the morning you would have to go to the orthodontist and get it wired up again.

How many times did that happen?

About 4 times. Yeah, it wasn't pleasant.

Who was the most influential coach or person in your playing career?

Initially, when I was in u18's, I didn't play until I was about 16, it was a bloke called Bill Sweeny. He was a local sergeant in Kurri. He was a wonderful basics coach. And appreciate it was country coaching. But Bill was enormous, he was a tremendous fella, very much like Bernie Purcell. Bernie had played at the top level. Bill Sweeny had also at the country level which used to be big time then. But Bernie Purcell was enormous, he was just like a father to us. He new the game and new how to handle blokes and nothing fancy in a game, just ABC and get the job done and get off and get home. And I think that's the way St George, I know St George over all those years of all their premierships, they had great players. But Norm Provin, Ken Carney and Ian Walsh, who were the 3 coaches, they always.., it was just ABC rugby league. Catch pass and tackle. None of this computer crap, garbage, building blokes up to be what their not and that's the way they play it. They should just get on with the game.

Do you think that, with the introduction of this new technology, and the introduction of more money, that coaches feel they have to justify what they are doing?

It all started when they started carrying clipboards to the game in my era, and now of course there are computers, and personally looking at it, I think it's a load of garbage. It's a very simple game being made difficult by coaches. Not all coaches, but the majority of them.

How would you rate South's performance the first year back?

There is a lot of good young players there. The start was good of course. I don't think anyone expected them to win the premiership, but its been disappointing for all of the fans where they have finished, and the scores that have been put on them in the last few games. But really, basically when you look at it, to get a team together at the end of last year, and I'm not knocking any of the players that are there, I think Stringer has been magnificent and a lot of the younger blokes have done some real good stuff during games. I think they can only get.. , well of course they can only just go to the roof now if they tie a few of these players up and if they fire up. I think that the way they started off and the late start that they had and who they had to pick from, I think they have done a marvelous job.

What do you think of our new signings for 2003?

The majority of them I think are pretty good, providing they can fit in with the Souths style of play and the Souths way of life. And it is different, Souths way of life. Souths always, no matter who plays them, they like to throw the ball around, they like to be together. And in today's game there is not a real lot of teams who have that real togetherness. Even if they are winning premierships there is always that bitchiness amongst them. And you can't afford to have it. And over the years Souths have never had it, but the majority of the blokes they have signed I think are good signings, and we are all looking forward to them doing something very positive next year.

Did you play for any other clubs?

I played for Kurri, Souths of course, and at the end of my career we came up here (Brisbane).

Did you play for Wynnum Manly?

No, I signed with the QRL, and they placed me with Wests. And they were like what Souths were when I first went to them, but they never improved. They were two horrid years there. The players were great and people were good to me, but we had no good players. I had 2 years there, and during that period of time in 73, the first year I played the series and captained Queensland in the interstate series.

So the competition was called the interstate series and it is now known as the State of Origin?

Yes, where every you were, that's where you played. That's why State of Origin was brought in, by Ron McAuliffe, who was the boss of QRL at the time, and they have made it more fairer now. So for the interstate series, as you can imagine, every body was in Sydney playing. Most of the good players were there, there was only a few that didn't go like Wally Lewis, Des Morris and Greg Dowling who stayed here.

So most of the games were one sided towards NSW then?

It was disgraceful.

So NSW had QLD and the NSW players to pick from under this system. Who thought up that idea?

That's just the way it was, from day one. Then in my last year, Tommy Bishop, the great little pommy captain was coaching Norths, came over and said would you have a year for us. And I said no I wont, and anyway it finished up I did. And they had a lot of good young players, Nicky Geiger who played for Australia, that was in 75. So I had one good year with them and we made a final, not the grand final, and got beaten by Redcliffe. It was a really good year and I was really happy I finished on a good note even though it was up here in the lesser standard of football really.

So after you finished your football career where did you life lead you?

I worked with Carlton United when we moved up here and they were very, very good to me. I was there for 4 years and then we went into a hotel in Gladstone called the Young Australian, we were there for 2 years then we built a hotel at Bribie Island, on the still side. Then we sold that, and then we went to Southport, and were in the Queens Hotel at Southport. Then we bought the Helensvale Tavern. We were there for 7 years. And then I sort of gave it away, and now I have been doing some relief management for blokes. It was supposed to be 6 weeks and 3 of them have been 23 months, 27 months and this one has been 28 months, and this was supposed to be 6 weeks. So where do you live now? I live at main beach Southport.

Have you ever been approached by the club to take a coaching or training role?

No, It is something I have never been interested in and I think they know that.

With you life experiences what advice would you have for budding rugby league players or people travelling along life's journey in general?

>Be a Good person, don't get involved in the politics of the game. If you want to play game, play the game, and get away from all the politics. And think about your mates you are playing with. That's very important because you cant win a game without them. You can't win it on your own. And everyday just have a good look at yourself and make sure your heading in the right direction, life wise.

What do you think of the QforSS team, the Queenslanders for South Sydney Supporters Group?

I think its marvellous. I think its been very powerful the way they have stuck together. And a lot of people might say well what good can they do. But you've got no idea how the players feel about it, and you've got no idea how the club feels about it. It's very, very strong and its very, very powerful and it can only get better, which is great for South Sydney.

>Just one last question John, can we borrow the BBQ for Saturday night on the patio, we're having a free sausage sizzle for QforSS members and Souths fans?

Yep that's fine Bushy rang me about 10 minutes after you.

Oh, and one more thing John, can you sign my Jersey please

Queenslanders for Souths Sydney would like to formally thank Mr John Sattler for taking the time out of his busy schedule to allow us to interview him for our Website and help promote our Supporters Group. To us, you are the ultimate Souths Legend.

The Era of the Biff would also like to thank the gang from QforSS for allowing me to reproduce this great interview -- Good luck Rabbitohs (except when you play the Sharks)


Queenslanders for South Sydney (QforSS), Inc. gives supporters of the club north of the border the chance to meet and cheer on their team. The club was founded less than an hour after the Rabbitohs won their famous court case on 6 July 2001. A handful of loyal supporters, lead by Jack Saunders, felt the need to create a group for Souths fans in Queensland. Within a few weeks, more than 300 people gathered at the inaugural QforSS function, which was held at the Terminus Hotel in South Brisbane. John Sattler, patron of our club, came to meet his many admirers and to provide a marvellous rendition of the club's victory song during the glory years.
Based on the huge response to that initial function, QforSS has grown quickly. We produce a quarterly newsletter that contains news about what we're up to as well as the latest from Redfern, we operate a website with all the gossip about the club, and we provide weekly e-mail updates to members during the season. QforSS also organises a range of fundraising activities and functions for our members, in order to keep the fans in contact with the football club, and also to attract new fans to the Rabbitohs.
Souths fans in Queensland are spread far and wide, so one of the aims of QforSS is to create the opportunity for Souths fans to get together. Functions in 2003 have included gatherings to coincide with the Charity Shield and trial match in the pre-season, a mid-year function with Mario Fenech, and our end of year 'Burrow Bash' (coming up on October 11). QforSS also hosts regular gatherings at the Runcorn Tavern and Gilhooleys Irish Bar in Albert Street, so instead of travelling to Sydney each week to watch the team, fans can watch the team play in the company of fellow supporters and family. We also sent a busload of supporters to Sydney for the first match of the 2002 season, and organised a bus for the trial match at Ipswich in 2003.
The club tries to give something back to the great game of Rugby League by supporting junior teams and the local league. We have also donated funds to other worthy causes in the community. QforSS will also continue to deepen its ties with South Sydney, which has generously donated merchandise to us for fundraising purposes. In short, QforSS strives to bring Souths fans in Queensland closer to the club they love.
You can learn more about QforSS by sending us an email (qforss@hotmail.com), by visiting our website (www.geocities.com/qforss/), or by writing to us at PO Box 6145, St. Lucia 4067.

Interview by David Hundt, QforSS Secretary


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