Courage in Sport – Part Three. Rugby and Cricket Tales

Rugby League – John Sattler

In 2014, Australian rugby league side South Sydney, owned by actor Russell Crowe and known as The Rabbitohs, won the Grand Final for the first time since 1971. One of the men there to see it was ex-Rabbitoh captain, John Sattler.

The Souths celebrate.

The Souths celebrate.

Sattler, who began playing the game only at age 16, captained the South Sydney team in the 1970 Grand Final against old rivals Manly-Warringah. Three minutes into the game, prop forward Sattler was hit hard in a tackle by opposite number, John Bucknall, who then smashed a right hook into the left side of Sattler’s face.

John Sattler on the receiving end of a right hook.

John Sattler on the receiving end of a right hook.

As play continued, Sattler struggled to his feet, aware that he was in trouble. Using a finger, he felt around inside his mouth, encountering first a hole in the left side of the jaw and after further exploration, another hole to the right. He also discovered a split in the middle of the lower gum line. His jaw had been broken in three places. Winger Michael Cleary was the first to notice the injury and immediately told Sattler to ‘‘Get off the field. You can’t play on.’’ However, acknowledged hard man Sattler was going nowhere and he refused to be protected by team mates. He continued to take a full part in play and later exacted a measure of revenge on Bucknall. During breaks in play, Sattler would grab either side of his jaw and jam it into place, before clenching his teeth against his mouthguard. He played a full 77 minutes with the shattered jaw and ensured a third Rabbitohs Grand Final win in four years.

John Sattler, South Sydney,1970

Stuff of legend…John
Sattler, suffering a broken jaw, is chaired off by Bob McCarthy after Souths beat
Manly in the 1970 grand final – The Daily Telegraph.

Cricket – Dudley Nourse

In discussions about South Africa’s greatest batsmen, Dudley Nourse is not usually mentioned in the same breath as Graeme Pollock, Barry Richards or Jacques Kallis but he deserves to be there. At a time when South Africa was not a force in world cricket, Nourse averaged nearly 54 in 62 innings, with 9 hundreds and 14 fifties.

Courageous Dudley Nourse

Courageous Dudley Nourse

One of his finest and most courageous innings came in his last tour, to England in 1951, when he was almost forty years old. Prior to the first test, Nourse broke his left thumb and was informed by a surgeon that he could have it put in plaster, which would put him out of cricket for approximately two months, or he could have it pinned, which would possibly enable him to play in the first test but in great pain, as anyone who has broken a thumb can understand. He opted for the latter and in the first innings of the test came to the wicket at the fall of the second wicket. Each time he played the ball, he was seen to wring the hand and it was evident that he was in severe pain. The great English cricketer Denis Compton later said, ‘’For courage and determination, possibly that display by Dudley has never been surpassed on the cricket field. Few in the crowd could have realized just how much he suffered.’’

Denis Compton

Denis Compton

Nourse could not field or bat in the second innings but in that first innings he went on to make 208 and South Africa won its first test in 16 years.

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Terence Dale Lace lives with his wife, Sara, and son Tim along with their two dogs. He is a keen follower of school rugby and cricket. He writes about topical issues in sport news where original and sometimes controversial writing will, he hopes, spark thoughtful responses.

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Posted in Courage in Sport, Cricket, Rugby

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