Lionel Potter | 1936-2021

On Wednesday we lost a true Souths legend, never one looking for the limelight he mentored so many of us young men at the Rabbitohs over a long period of time.

You’ll never be forgotten Lionel Henry Potter RIP. (Craig Coleman)

Liam Coleman, Bobby Ginman, Lionel Potter & Craig Coleman

The Rabbitohs’ family is mourning at the passing of one of the Clubs former trainers in Lionel Potter, who passed away on Wednesday at the Prince of Wales Hospital just four days short of his 85th birthday.

Mr Potter is part of South Sydney folklore in the most ironic of ways, inspiring the Rabbitohs to an iconic victory over the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in 1984 and unsettling opposition sides for many years.

Lionel Henry Potter was born in 1936 and he was Club Conditioner between 1979 and 1992. He was also on the Coaching Panel between 1992 and 1999.

Many people regard the 1980s as the toughest era of the sport with the modern game losing some of its inherent toughness due to the changes in rules and the match review process. Mr Potter was the inspiration behind a play-call used by the tough Rabbitohs outfits of the 1980s to unsettle their opposition which led to some famous victories.

Souths were battling financially at the time and had to come up with a different style of football to unsettle their opponents. Their new coach Ron Willey was an old-style coach and he didn’t mind ‘putting on the biff’, especially when it was done at the right time of the game and in the right place on the field.

Uncompromising forward Dean Rampling was chosen to make the call during the game to signal when the fight would start, usually from a scrum, when the opposition wouldn’t be expecting it. Dean decided to call ‘Henry’ out loud before the fisticuffs started, to alert his players that it was time to use the tactic to rattle their opponents.

Rampling named it after their trainer Lionel ‘Henry’ Potter – who was the loveliest bloke in the world; the quiet, unassuming type, but with a spirit that would never allow him to back down no matter what the odds were against him.

It was the naming of the punch-on call after the gentlest of men that was the true genius of the play and the inspiration behind one of the Club’s most famous victories, a 22-18 Preliminary Semi-Final victory over the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in 1984.

Manly were raging hot favourites after the Rabbitohs had to qualify for the Finals with a mid-week play-off victory over the Canberra Raiders, playing Manly just four days later. The momentum of the game changed when ‘Henry’ was called that day and the victory, inspired by Mr Potter, belonged to South Sydney.

Lionel also taught some of the younger players in the team how to box in the ring, which also came in handy during their games.

On behalf of everyone connected to the South Sydney Rabbitohs, we offer our deepest and most sincere condolences to the family and friends of Lionel Potter at this difficult time. (Souths Players Association)

Geoff Carr, Charlie Frith, William Bonney & Lionel Potter

Charlie Frith sent us this picture of him standing with Geoff Carr, William Bonney & Lionel. We’ve had so many messages of condolence from Tony Rampling, Joe Thomas & many more.

Lionel Potter & David Boyle

Coach Lionel Henry Potter RIP 18th September 2021. A very sad day for hundreds of South Sydney players from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. Lionel was a tremendous friend, mentor, life educator, and coach. He would gravitate to the new recruits from the country areas, give up his time and take them under his wing to do extra sessions and make them feel welcome.

Craig Coleman told me a story of when Lionel took Les Davidson to a boxing coach for some extra training, well we all know how well that went. Charlie Frith, Lindsay Johnston, Michael Carberry, and myself are only a few who Lionel has mentored. He was so humble, caring, and passionate about helping players to learn and get better.

Jack Gibson bought Lionel to Souths with him from the Roosters. One great coach recognizing Lionel’s talent and commitment.

Lionel would take us on the end-of-season trips overseas. While the players were looking for a break and partying, Lionel would write ahead to the NFL coaches and universities to see if we could visit their facilities or attend games with the intention that we would learn something. His big call was; “we can’t become institutionalized”. And so, we got to visit the San Francisco 49ers, LA Rams, went to Maddison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium, University of Hawaii to mention a few.

So the past two days have been flooded with photos, stories, and memories of Coach Lionel Henry Potter on the past players’ WhatsApp group. If you are a past player or a staff member and have anything to contribute or, would like to be added to the group just reply here or email to events@southsplayers.com

Thanks for your guidance and friendship coach Potter RIP. (David Boyle)

Coach Lionel Potter

Vale Lionel Potter

I have lost a very good friend Lionel Potter. He was a very big part of our success in the 80s. He was a wonderful man who helped me greatly and will be sadly missed. (Bobby Ginman)

Lionel was a close mate of mine & was my right hand man when I got into coaching. A very sad day, rest in peace my friend. (Keith McCraw)

Rest In Peace Potter. A man who loved his sports and a man who was a stickler for technique especially with his boxing. Often in my thoughts. (Les Davidson)

Brad Ryder, Lionel Potter & David Boyle

Lionel would often have a few beers at Coogee Legion Club with me and others on Thursday nights. About a year ago he gave me all his coaching notes and manuals, which take pride of place in my collection. (Brad Ryder)

RIP Lionel Potter. Such a wonderful icon of the mighty South Sydney Rabbits. A loyal mate, friend, father, grandfather, and affectionately known as Coach Potter for 100’s of South Sydney Players over many years.

Coach Potter would always ask Boyley, how’s the Cook, myself.

Lionel was always posting letters and photos in the post, old school you know. Such a treat as he named and dated each photo as he had sent them.

May you Rest In Peace Coach. You certainly have touched many lives and will be remembered and missed by many more. (Jackie Boyle)

I would like to say goodbye to Lionel (coach) Potter a true South Sydney legend, my right hand man, advisor, mentor and loyal friend. We had some great times that I’ll never forget, they don’t come any better, miss you already. R.I.P. my friend. (Stephen Simms)

Lionel was very much a part of that great family of the late 80s Rabbitohs teams, he will be missed by all who knew and loved him. So may memories of a great but humble mate. Vale coach Potter. (Michael Andrews)

An amazing man loved by all. (Steve McDermott)

Sad news he was a great man. (David Hosking)

Lionel was always giving guidance & was big on technique whether it be in boxing, tackling or passing. Very sad, RIP Lionel…he was a great man. (Darren Brown)

Sad day for the Rabbitohs family. RIP Lionel. (Ken Stewart)

Rest In Peace Lionel. (George Longbottom)

Sad day but we all have good memories with Lionel. I can remember his first day at the club. RIP. (John Peek)

RIP coach Potter. (Ross Harrington)

Great man, I remember Lionel and I had a blue in Miami over money & he hit me with his office case telling me I didn’t pay extras for somthing. Lionel had forgotten that it was him who didn’t put the money in so we had a good laugh about it after except I got a black eye out of it!

RIP MATE hopefully we can win a grand final for him if we do I’m saying it’s for COACH POTTER. (Maurie Benn)

RIP coach. (Johhny Fosters)

I caught up with Lionel at Coogee Surf Club a couple of times a week. He was still in the gym doing his sessions up until they closed the gym due to Covid. All be it a little slower. He will also be missed by many at the surf club. (Gary Wright)

RIP champion, so may memories, you’ll never be forgotten. (Rod Maybon)

What a legend!! R I P Lionel. (Troy Slattery)

Mr Potter an oldie but a goodie. Hard to find one club men like him. (Mark Bevan)

We all will miss coach Potter. (Wayne Chisholm)

Lionel – like you and all of our Old Boys – dug the well and laid the platform for where we are today, and all of the Clubs success.

Everyone involved with the Club works very hard to preserve and build on the Clubs legacy – of which Lionel will always be a very special part.

We’ll win Premiership 22 this year for the entire Rabbitohs family and community – especially those that came before us.

We’ll keep working hard to make you all proud – and honour Lionel’s and all of our Old Boys legacy.

May Lionel Rest In Peace … and bring on the Sea Eagles and Grand Final – and Premiership 22. (Shannon Donato)

Sean Garlick from Garlo’s Pies was close to Lionel & made attempts to visit him in hospital however due to his condition this wasn’t possible so he organised a variety of pies to be delivered to the staff in the ward caring for Lionel.

The Rabbitohs will be wearing black armbands in memory of Lionel Potter when they take on Manly in the Prelim final on Friday. It’s the least we could do to honour the great man. (Mark Ellison)

I remember Lionel as a bloke who told it like it is & when we were boxing training he was always telling me to keep my elbows in.

It’s fitting that the Bunnies will take on Manly in this huge clash on Friday & while we can’t expect any fists flying I’ve got no doubt the South Sydney Rabbitohs will have the spirit of the ‘Henry’ call close to their hearts. (Steve Mavin)

Thanks for sharing Dominic

5 thoughts on “Lionel Potter | 1936-2021

  1. I am the same age as Lionel we went back to the Melbourne days,a great work mate so willing,there was no give up in him.
    Does anyone else remember when he was the Australian cricket team fitness coach when he was on day leave?
    A great bloke,solid as a rock never forgotten .Donny McCarron.Glory,Glory

    • Hi Donny I wasn’t aware of that info mate thanks for sharing. Lionel was a champion that’s for sure.

  2. I met Lionel at Souths Sydney Police Boys club in the 80’s, he was friends with Keith Francis who was an Australian feather weight boxer an old Stadium fighter who was a mate of mine.
    .
    I would often bump into Lionel down Coogee Beach in later life.
    Always a delight to chat with him.

    Driving through South Coogee most mornings at 5.30am i noticed a silver hair man on the nature strip, i though he had fallen down, so i pulled over to help, when i got out of my car it was Lionel doing push ups this was early 2021 when he got out of hospital.

    The last time i had a coffee with Lionel was in late June 2021 we spoke about boxing and when he was in Boston he met a relative of Rocky Marciano who sent him 8 Rocky Marciano t shirts, i asked if he still had it, and he said yes.
    He said he would give it to me, i rang him a couple of weeks later and he said his put the t/shirt in his back pack and when we l catch up for a coffee he will pass on ,we then went into lock down!

    I would love to see the t/shirt and keep it as a little bit of Lionel’s memory & a treasure.

    I was also organising a catch up with Keith Francis 95 years old and Lionel, i had rang them both to inform them and both were very excited to meet up! then Covid lock downs?
    The Ironic part, they both lived with in 200 meters of each other in South Coogee….

    RIP Lionel, a real gentleman full of wisdom.
    Will be greatly missed.

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