Family and friends farewell Raudonikis

·3-min read

Ready or not, heaven has Tommy Raudonikis.

The rugby league great was farewelled on Friday at a livestreamed funeral mass on the Gold Coast

The 70-year-old, who died of cancer last week, was remembered as the game's greatest character and competitor.

Shortly after Raudonikis died, veteran coach Wayne Bennett had ruefully pondered whether the afterlife would be ready for him.

"But they'll have to handle him," Bennett joked.

On Friday, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Dennis Watt made it clear in his eulogy that while Raudonikis "at times was a naughty boy", he belongs with the angels.

The Gold Coast Titans chairman quoted John 15:13, one of the Bible's best-known passages.

"'Greater love have no-one than this, to lay down one's life for his friends'," Watt said.

"Tommy was such a man, whether on the football field or in life ... he was the bright light helping you through the darkness."

Son Lincoln fought back tears as he also paid tribute.

"You all knew Dad as an icon, but we knew him as Dad," he said.

Fellow league luminaries Allan Langer and Wayne Lewis and swimming icon Dawn Fraser were among the mourners at the service.

Watt wryly noted that the demographics of the congregation reflected the man they were mourning.

"Rarely has there been a richer collection of achievers, rugby league royalty, larrikins, colourful characters and persons of interest, all in this room," he said.

Watt also remembered the first and last boxing event at the Sydney Opera House, which Raudonikis helped promote.

It descended into a riot.

"For the first time in his life, mindful that he'd have to pick up the damages, Tommy actually tried to stop the brawl - usually he was starting them," Watt said.

But the battler who epitomised rugby league's "fibros v silvertails" ethos also had a great heart, once visiting a friend who was struggling in a hospital spinal unit.

Watt said after lifting the spirits of his friend, Raudonikis "then proceeds to spend time with every one of the other 42 patients ... a wave of laughter and pure joy just follows him around the ward and they talk about him for days.

"That's Tommy."

Calling Raudonikis "the toughest No.7 of the them all", Watt said he died peacefully, in the arms of his wife Trish Brown.

The larger-than-life ex-Western Suburbs and Newtown legend lost his long battle with cancer last Wednesday, prompting an outpouring of grief in the rugby league community.

Raudonikis played 201 first grade games for the Magpies across 11 seasons, nine of them as club captain, before joining Newtown in 1980, playing 37 games over three seasons - including the 1981 grand final as captain.

A tough halfback, Raudonikis represented NSW on 24 occasions and played 29 times for Australia in Tests and World Cup matches - twice as captain.

His coaching career featured two years in charge of the NSW State of Origin team.

On Monday, the public will pay respect to the man known as Tom Terrific during a memorial service at the SCG.