We are saddened to advise you of the death of John “Jack” Maxwell Potts on 1 June 2023. Jack had a unique rugby career influenced by his aspirations in the legal field.

Jack was born in Tenterfield in Queensland on 21 February 1936 and attended Waverley College. as a boarder. He was the first to score a century at Waverley Oval. A plaque commemorates the occasion.

“John came to Waverly from Nowra, and immediately took to football, as the proverbial duck takes to water. After a few years in age teams, he became one of the outstanding players in the first XV of 1952 and 1953.”

At 18 years old, he was the heavy weight boxing champion where he beat Lloyd Hughes and was also the Associated Schools 220 yards and 440 yards champion. After leaving Waverley, Jack enrolled in the Faculty of Law at the University of Sydney and played his rugby for Sydney University Football Club. Roddy Meagher KC, spotted him as a talented schoolboy rugby player and invited him to reside at St Johns College. Jack played 43 games for the Club of which 23 were in 1st grade. In 1956 Jack was selected as a member of the second Australian Universities Team to tour Japan with Dick Tooth as Captain, under the direction of Manager, Barney Walsh. Some months later, this article was published.

‘Three young university rugby union backs next Saturday will move a step nearer their goal of representing Australia. They are John Potts 20, John Dowse 21, and Derek Hill 21. State selectors have chosen them in the strong South Harbour team to play North Harbour at North Sydney Oval on Saturday this match is a lead up to the New South Wales tour of Queensland the following week and matches against the Springboks. Potts, Dowse and Hill were outstanding successes on the Australian Universities Tour of Japan earlier this year. They are the brightest of the present prospects from the University which over the years has provided many top line players for Australian teams. Centre Potts 6’2” is the tallest back in union he is a strong runner and a splendid defender.

In 1956 he represented New South Wales against Queensland and also the Springboks but not before this article was published.

NSW Rugby Union selectors yesterday had a frantic three-hour search for University centre John Potts. They had chosen Potts in the state team as the replacement for injured Jim Phipps. State coach John Solomon finally tracked Potts down at an engineering factory near the University. Only five hours remained before the team left by train for Brisbane. Potts quickly got a week’s leave and packed his bags in time to join the team.

And a subsequent report read

20-year-old local footballer John Potts played a big part in NSW’s rugby union win over Queensland on Saturday. At centre, Potts was the star of the match. The tall, fast and bony Potts knocked the Queensland backline off their feet. He hurt everyone who tackled, or was tackled by him.

A few weeks later, this article was published on May 20, 1956.

The South African Springboks yesterday, overwhelmed New South Wales 29–9 at the sports ground and showed exactly why they are the world champions of rugby union. The Springboks were held to an 8–6 lead after a gruelling first half but the Springboks swamped New South Wales to score, 21 points in the second half.

Back to Club results.

“Two players fighting for International Rugby Union honours, starred in University’s 17-3 victory over Eastern Suburbs. They are outside centre John Potts and left winger Derry Hill. Both have played for the state … Hill scored two tries and Potts one. Potts gave one of the best displays seen this year.  

The feature of University’s 19-15 win over Northern Suburbs was the sparkling first half form of University’s Centre John Potts who is fighting for a test birth against the British Lions. Potts was selected NSW Centre on his brilliant play last week for City Seconds and yesterday guided the speedy University quarter through many glorious movements. University backs generally had a field day, cutting Norths to ribbons… Best for University were Potts, Magrath, Davies and Wakeford.

On June 23, 1956 the NSW rugby union selectors dropped Barry Roberts and John Potts from the team to play Queensland. This action was taken because they did not attend training. Four reserves were dropped for the same reason.

After being out of the game for some time because of injuries, Jack forced his way into the Wallabies by outstanding football in the trials and in 1957, he represented Australia in both test against the All Blacks.

The following year, he became Wallaby number 423 when he was selected for his test debut in Sydney. He retained his place for the second test and was then chosen for the Fourth Wallabies tour. In 1958 he was injured in the first interstate match and missed the rest of the representative season. He returned with a vengeance in 1959 and played what was his greatest ever game in NSW’s historic defeat of the Lions (18-14), and was duly recalled for the first test in Brisbane. He had another strong match and was selected for the 2nd test but withdrew due to the pressure of his university exams. In his final year of law, he concentrated on his studies. In all, Jack Potts played five tests for Australia in a three-year international career.

Jack coached St John’s College in 1974 (the only year John’s won the Rawson Cup captained by Steve Anthony) and 1st Grade in 1975.

Jack was recently honoured by the Sydney University Football Club at the recent Legends Lunch along with other past greats of the Club.

All at the Club offer our condolences to Jack’s family. Some of the quotes from his fellow SUFC players include:

–         ‘Jack was a greater man than many who are more famous’

–         ‘I remember him as a true gentleman’

–         ‘I’m sure everyone has very fond memories of Jack as our coach and a wonderful man.’

–         ‘A very humble gentleman who leaves us with a fantastic legacy and how fortunate were we to be involved and have the privilege to learn under him’

–         ‘Brewery” (aka Jack) was not only a great bloke but was noted as a demon tackler—he probably should have been a breakaway!’


It is planned to establish a Jack Potts Scholarship to enable a rugby player to attend St. John’s College and play for Uni. People wishing to contribute can contact Marylou Potts (0411 340 775) or Steve Anthony (0414 996 400).



A memorial service will be held at Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron on 11 July from 2pm for family and friends.

Jack with his great mate, John “Sparrow” Dowse with whom he played at Uni and for NSW, Australia and Australian Universities.


Ray Dearlove

5 June 2023