'Get on the f***ing plane': Matty Johns' epic Tommy Raudonikis story

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·3-min read
Tommy Raudonikis, pictured here during NSW State of Origin camp in 1997.
Tommy Raudonikis talks to his players during NSW State of Origin camp in 1997. (Photo by Sean Garnsworthy/Getty Images)

Matty John's has recounted one of his favourite stories about Tommy Raudonikis following the rugby league legend's tragic death.

The rugby league world is paying tribute to Raudonikis after the 70-year-old died on Wednesday following a long battle with cancer.

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Raudonikis completely lacked political correctness, was habitually irreverent and unfailing in his honesty and compassion.

And there wasn't a more perfect example than Johns' experience with Raudonikis in the NSW State of Origin squad in 1998.

Johns was selected in Raudonikis' team for the opening game of the series, but dropped for games II and III.

However a last-minute mishap for Geoff Toovey before game III had Raudonikis scrambling to get Johns to Sydney from Newcastle on game day.

Raudonikis called Johns telling him he had to be in Sydney for a 12.30pm team meeting, assuring him there would be a ticket waiting at the airport in Newcastle.

However Johns went into panic mode when no such ticket could be found and the only available flight was fully booked.

"Mate, there’s no ticket," Johns told Raudonikis over the phone.

To which Tommy replied: "I don’t give a f***, get on the plane!"

After Johns informed his coach the flight was full, Raudonikis barked back: "Just get on the f***ing plane! "I don’t give a f***, get down here!"

Johns revealed how the captain overheard the conversation and simply said “just follow me”.

“I walk across the tarmac, get on the plane and I’m sitting in the cockpit on the floor between the two pilots,” Johns said.

“I arrive at Sydney at 12, jump in a taxi and by the time I get to Coogee it’s 12.35pm.

“I run up into the room, Tommy’s standing there and goes ‘where have you been? It’s 12.35pm, you’re f***ing fined!’”

Tommy Raudonikis, pictured here during a NSW training session in 1997.
Tommy Raudonikis looks on during a NSW training session in 1997. (Photo by Sean Garnsworthy/Getty Images)

Tommy Raudonikis' tragic death at age 70

Raudonikis' two-year spell as NSW State of Origin coach included a series win in 1997 in which his infamous "cattle dog" war cry - an instruction to his players to start a brawl - was born.

Having played for NSW in the old interstate series for 10 years, Raudonikis captained the Blues in the inaugural State of Origin match in 1980.

His recollection of the match was less-than-detailed, but typically erudite: "There was a blue, I went over to it ..... I went down like a bucket of s***."

Both his interstate and international careers ran from 1971 to 1980 and involved 24 games for NSW and 29 for Australia.

Reflecting on his finest moments in the green and gold, Raudonikis noted the only times in his career that he was sent off were on tours to England.

"I got sent off twice in England, but I should've got a medal because it was in Test matches and I took two Pommies with me," he said.

with AAP

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