VALE – TOM RAUDONIKIS
One of the greatest Magpies of them all, Tom Raudonikis has passed away at the age of 70 after a long battle with cancer.
Originally from Cowra, the dynamic halfback came to Wests from Wagga in 1969 on the recommendation of his country coach, former NZ international centre Graham Kennedy, and the advice of Australian captain-coach Arthur Summons. While working as an air force mechanic.
He made his debut for the mighty Western Suburbs in 1969 and within two years, was playing for New South Wales and touring with the Australian side that went over to New Zealand.
He made the first of 29 Test appearances against the Kiwis in 1972 and won the Rothmans Medal for best and fairest player.
He was the dominant halfback during the 1970s and captained Australia in the third and deciding Test against Great Britain on the 1973 Kangaroo tour. Raudonikis also played in two World Cup wins (1975 & 1977), four Ashes series (1973, 1974, 1978 & 1979) and against France (1978) and NZ (1978 & 1980).
He skippered Western Suburbs to the famous Amco Cup win in 1977 when they edged out Eastern Suburbs 6-5 at Leichhardt Oval.
Raudonikis switched over to Newtown in 1980 and helped steer the club to the 1981 grand final, where he scored a try. After three seasons with the Jets, he headed to Brisbane to play with Brothers and later coached Ipswich and a young Allan Langer.
He returned to the Magpies in 1995 to coach the club and remained with Western Suburbs until the end of the 1999 season. He also coached New South Wales in the State of Origin series in 1997-98.
“Tommy was one of a kind. There will never be another Tommy Raudonikis,’’ said Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter V’landys.
“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.”
Mr V’landys also acknowledged Raudonikis’ contribution to promoting rugby league.
“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.”
Raudonikis was inducted as an inaugural Member of the Magpies Hall of Fame and NRL Hall of Fame in 2008.
The Western Suburbs Magpies Heritage Night on June 25, 2021 will now serve as a tribute to the great Tommy Raudonikis, Arthur Summons and Noel Kelly.
Born: April 13, 1950
Died: April 7, 2021
First grade matches:
Western Suburbs 243 (201 premiership, 32 pre-season and 10 mid-week )
Newtown: 50 (37 premiership, 6 pre-season and 7 mid-week)
NEW SOUTH WALES
24 matches (1971-80)
60 matches (29 Tests/ World Cup, 31 tour matches)