Tommy Raudonikis has been remembered as the patron saint of rugby league in the game’s final farewell to the lovable larrikin who epitomised an era of the sport.
Raudonikis was on Monday celebrated by more than 1000 fans, family members and former teammates at the SCG, after his death from cancer earlier this month.
On the same ground he made his debut for NSW and Australia, Raudonikis was fondly remembered as a larger-than-life character and one of the game’s toughest men.
And while numerous team jerseys littered the crowd and the member’s stand, Raudonikis still managed to bring a who’s who of rugby league together after his death.
Included in the crowd were current Wests Tigers players and staff, South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett, Balmain legends Paul Sironen, Steve Roach, Ben Elias and Garry Jack, along with Wests teammates John Dorahy and Les Boyd.
Dorahy was one of several to give a touching tribute to Raudonikis’ competitiveness, while ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys praised his selflessness.
V’landys also reiterated his push that a state funeral should have been offered for the legendary NSW coach, while Ray Warren argued a ‘Raudonikis Stand’ would not look out of place at the SCG.
“Today we salute the man and his memory, while not forgetting the humour and laughter he brought to our lives,” Warren said.
“A bloke who on the field would stoop to any devious resort, but who off the battlefield was the game’s patron saint.”
Raudonikis was farewelled on Friday at a private funeral for family and friends on the Gold Coast.
He played 201 first-grade games for the Magpies across 11 seasons, nine of them as club captain, before joining Newtown in 1980, playing 37 games over three seasons – including the 1981 grand final as captain.
A tough halfback, Raudonikis represented NSW on 24 occasions and played 29 times for Australia in Tests and World Cup matches – twice as captain.
But it was as Blues coach where he left his most famous mark, bringing passion into State of Origin during the Super League war with his cattle dog cry.