Australian rugby league great, Tommy Raudonikis, has died after a long battle with cancer and just days away from his 71st birthday.
ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys said the league legend’s passing was being mourned by fellow players, his former clubs and the NRL.
“Tommy was one of a kind. There will never be another Tommy Raudonikis,” Mr V’landys said of the former Australian halfback.
“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,” he said.
“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.
“Few did more to promote our game than Tommy, whether it was at a luncheon on television or radio, Tommy was always there to talk up the game he loved.
“He made people laugh as one of the game’s great larrikins and epitomised the passion and tribalism that is unique to rugby league.”
“On behalf of the entire rugby league community, I send my deepest condolences to Tommy’s family and friends.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also paid tribute to the sportsman.
“Condolences to the family of Tommy Raudonikis, a well-loved Australian and individual,” Morrison said this morning.
“All of those who love their rugby league will certainly know about Tommy Raudonikis, he was one of game’s biggest characters and will be sadly missed in the rugby league family. Sincere condolences to his family and to the rugby league family as well.”
Raudonikis captained NSW in 1980’s inaugural State of Origin game and also went on to coach the NSW Blues.
He played 201 first grade games for the Magpies, followed by 37 for Newtown. He played a total of 24 matches for NSW and 60 for Australia, including 29 Tests. Across all competitions, he played 403 elite-level games between 1969-1983.
Raudonikis won the Rothman’s Medal in the 1972 NSW Rugby League season while playing for the Magpies. In 2004, he was named in the Western Suburbs team of the century.
“There are few icons in the history of rugby league that will stand as tall as Tommy Raudonikis,” Wests Tigers chair, Lee Hagipantelis said today.
“Tommy wore the black and white with fervour and passion like no other and is revered for his contribution to our club, our state and our country,” he said.
“Tommy will always be remembered as a true legend and unequivocally crucial part of the fabric of Western Suburbs and, in turn, Wests Tigers, and his legacy in the game will certainly live on in the DNA of our club.”