NSW Blues Origin Training
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - 1997: Tommy Raudonikis, coach of the New South Wales Blues talks to his players during a training session prior to the 1997 State of Origin match between the Queensland Maroons held in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Sean Garnsworthy/Getty Images)

Rugby league great Tommy Raudonikis has tragically passed away, aged 70, after losing his battle with cancer.

The ex-Western Suburbs and Newtown halfback made 29 Test and World Cup appearances for Australia and played 24 matches for New South Wales.

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 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.”


  1. What a legend. I wonder if he ever stopped hating Stevie Mortimer and if Mortimer got back his bag that Tommy threw off the balcony in Brisbane.
    Best comment I heard about Tommy was by Peter Sterling on the Footy Show, Someone mentioned about a battle with Tommy. Sterlo: ” Battle, is that all you call it?”

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