Rugby league great Tommy Raudonikis has tragically passed away, aged 70, after losing his battle with cancer.
In total he played 239 first grade games, scoring 34 tries over that period and coached the NSW State of Origin team in 1997 and 1998.
The much-loved figure led NSW as captain in the inaugural State of Origin game in 1980 and is perhaps best remembered for introducing the “cattle dog” spirit in 1997 that prompted several all-in brawls.
His final playing year was in a captain coach role at Brisbane Brothers in 1983 before going on to coach at the Brisbane Norths and the Ipswich Jets in the Brisbane Rugby League premiership and the Western Suburbs Magpies until the formation of the Wests Tigers-Balmain Tigers.
Raudonikis is one of the game’s great rags to riches stories – the son of migrant parents in 1950, he grew up in an immigration camp before being identified by Magpies great Arthur Simmons while working as an air force mechanic.
Hailing from Bathurst, NSW, Raudonikis was inducted into the NRL Hall of Fame in 2008.
ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys on Wednesday morning paid tribute to Raudonikis.
“Tommy was one of a kind. There will never be another Tommy Raudonikis,” V’landys said.
“Tommy was everything that makes rugby league the greatest game of all. He grew up in a migrant camp in Cowra and went on to become NSW’s first Origin captain.
“As a player there were none tougher. He was a brilliant halfback, what he lacked in stature he more than made up for in smarts and courage to become one of the best players of his era.”
The Newtown Jets are deeply saddened to learn about the passing of former grand final captain Tommy Raudonikis.
Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones. pic.twitter.com/YO0f49JbdN
— Newtown Jets (@newtownrlfc) April 6, 2021
VALE Tommy Raudonikis 🏴🏳 Magpie #655@westsmagpies are saddened to learn of the passing of much loved Magpie Tommy Raudonikis
As both player & coach, Tommy has been at the heart & Soul of the Magpies and their supporters for 50 years.
Our thoughts are with Tommy’s family. pic.twitter.com/dpuRlbnzC3
— Wests Magpies (@westsmagpies) April 6, 2021
The Wests Tigers also paid special tribute to their club icon.
“Tommy is certainly an inspirational part of our club’s history and someone with whom I greatly appreciated spending time with,” Wests Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe.
“His wisdom, insight and passion for our club and game was like no other, and I thoroughly enjoyed the time learning from and listening to him.
“He is without doubt the fiercest competitor I have ever met and is someone who will be deeply remembered and missed by everyone associated with Western Suburbs and Wests Tigers.”
Wests Tigers are deeply saddened by the passing of rugby league icon Tommy Raudonikis.
Tommy fervour and passion for the black and white jersey is like no other and his legacy in the game will certainly live on in the DNA of our club.