Rugby league rocked by tragic death of Tommy Raudonikis, aged 70

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·5-min read
Tommy Raudonikis, pictured here during an NRL game in 2016.
Tommy Raudonikis watches on during an NRL game in 2016. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

The Australian sporting community is mourning the tragic death of rugby league legend Tommy Raudonikis.

Raudonikis died on Wednesday at the age of 70 after a long battle with cancer.

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He was just six days away from his 71st birthday.

Raudonikis played 239 first grade games from 1969-1982, most notably with the Western Suburbs Magpies.

He played 24 State of Origin games for NSW and represented Australia in 29 Test matches.

His last appearance for the Blues was as captain in the inaugural State of Origin match in 1980, but he is arguably best remembered for the "cattle dog" cry he coined as NSW coach in 1997 - a series they won.

After 11 seasons at Wests, nine of them as club captain, Raudonikis joined Newtown in 1980, playing 37 games over three seasons - including the 1981 grand final as captain.

The tough-as-nails halfback was named in Western Suburbs' team of the century in 2004 and inducted into the NRL Hall of Fame in 2008.

Raudonikis was diagnosed with cancer for the fourth time in 2019.

“When he got those results last year there was a little bit of cancer that the doctors thought would go away because of all the radiation and chemo in his body, but it didn’t,” partner Trish Brown told The Courier Mail at the time.

“The cancer is wrapped around his carotid artery. It is so close to his brain that it is inoperable.

“He couldn’t go through chemo again. He wouldn’t have been able to stand it, so the only option was to try a type of immunotherapy."

Raudonikis had fought testicular cancer after suffering a quadruple heart surgery, before he was then diagnosed with throat cancer.

Tommy Raudonikis and partner Trish Brown, pictured here at the 2018 NRL Hall of Fame ceremony.
Tommy Raudonikis and partner Trish Brown at the 2018 NRL Hall of Fame ceremony. (AAP Image/Brendon Thorne)

Rugby league world pays tribute to Tommy Raudonikis

Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter V'landys led the tributes to Raudonikis.

"Tommy was one of a kind. There will never be another Tommy Raudonikis," V'landys said.

"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."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison offered his condolences to the Raudonikis family.

John Singleton and Tommy Raudonikis, pictured here at the Magic Millions Opening Night cocktail party in 2013.
John Singleton and Tommy Raudonikis at the Magic Millions Opening Night cocktail party in 2013. (Photo by Marc Grimwade/WireImage)

"All of those who love their rugby league will certainly know about Tommy Raudonikis," the PM said.

"He was one of game's biggest characters and will be sadly missed in the rugby league family and sincere condolences to his family and to the rugby league family as well."

Wests Tigers CEO Simon Cook said: “The club is in deep mourning. He will always be a legend of the Magpies.”

Fellow rugby league legend Darryl Brohman tweeted: "What a sad day! Great Bloke. Wonderful footballer and a true Aussie knockabout who could just about get away with anything. 

"Thoughts with Trish and Family. RIP Legend."

Former Wests Tigers chairman Marina Go tweeted: "Devastated to learn that the great Tommy Raudonikis has died after a long battle with cancer. 

"My heart goes out to Trish and family. Vale."

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with AAP

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