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 died aged 70 earlier this month
- Ray Warren said Raudonikis provided much “humour and laughter”
- Raudonikis represented New South Wales on 24 occasions and played 29 times for Australia
Raudonikis was celebrated by more than 1,000 fans, family members and former teammates at the SCG on Monday afternoon following his death from cancer earlier this month.
On the same ground he made his debut for New South Wales and Australia, Raudonikis was fondly remembered as a larger-than-life character and one of the game’s toughest players.
And while numerous team jerseys littered the crowd and the members’ stand, Raudonikis 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 Gary Jack, along with Western Suburbs teammates John Dorahy and Les Boyd.
Dorahy was one of several to give a touching tribute to Raudonikis’s 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 Blues 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.
The pugnacious halfback played 201 first-grade matches for the Magpies across 11 seasons — nine of them as club captain — before joining Newtown in 1980.
He made 37 appearances for the Jets over three seasons and captained the club in the 1981 grand final loss to Parramatta.
Raudonikis represented New South Wales on 24 occasions and played 29 times for Australia in Tests and World Cup matches, and was twice captain of the national team.
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.