Iconic Magpies player Tommy Raudonikis dies aged 70

Tommy Raudonikis as a coach. Picture: NRL/Twitter
Tommy Raudonikis as a coach. Picture: NRL/Twitter

The rugby league community is in mourning today with the passing of beloved Western Suburbs Magpies legend Tommy Raudonikis.

Raudonikis died aged 70 today (April 7) after a long battle with cancer, the NRL reported.

The gravel-voiced pocket rocket made his impact on the sport as a player and coach and has remained one of the game's most iconic figures for decades.

Raudonikis played almost 250 games for the Western Suburbs Magpies throughout the late 1960s and 1970s (captaining between 1971 and 1979), before returning as a coach in the 1990s. He also represented Newtown.

He represented Australia in 29 tests and world cup matches, and made 24 appearances for NSW, including the inaugural State of Origin match in 1980. He also coached his state six times in 1997 and 1998.

Raudonikis is listed in both the Western Suburbs and Wests Tigers' teams of century and was inducted as an inaugural member of the Magpies Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the NRL Hall of Fame, inducted in 2008.

The Bathurst-born halfback, remembered well for his 'cattledog' cry, also received an Order of Australia Medal in 1982.

Tommy Raudonikis playing for Western Suburbs. Picture: Western Suburbs Mapgies/Twitter

Tommy Raudonikis playing for Western Suburbs. Picture: Western Suburbs Mapgies/Twitter

Wests Tigers chair Lee Hagipantelis paid tribute to the titan of the game.

"There are few icons in the history of rugby league that will stand as tall as Tommy Raudonikis," he said.

"Tommy wore the black and white with fervour and passion like no other and is revered for his contribution to our club, our state and our contry.

"Tommy will always be remembered as a true legend and unequivocally crucial part of the fabric of Western Suburbs and, in turn, Wests Tigers, and his legacy in the game will certainly live on in the DNA of our club."

Club chief executive Justin Pascoe said Raudonikis' impact could not be measured.

"Tommy is certainly an inspirational part of our club's history and someone with whom I greatly appreciated spending time," he said.

"His wisdom, insight and passion for our club and game was like no other, and I thoroughly enjoyed teh time learning from and listening to him..

"He is without doubt the fiercest competitor I have ever met and is someone who will be deeply remembered and missed by everyone associated with Wests Tigers."

Tommy Raudonikis. Picture: NRL/Facebook

Tommy Raudonikis. Picture: NRL/Facebook

The club will recognise and celebrate Tommy's impact this Sunday when they take on the North Queensland Cowboys at Leichhardt Oval.

Campbelltown MP Greg Warren offered his condolences to Raudonikis' family and friends.

"Tommy was one of rugby league's greatest personalities and was an icon in Campbelltown," he said.

"He was a champion halfback and great coach of the mighty Western Suburbs Magpies prior to their merger with the Balmain Tigers, and as tough as nails.

"He did a lot for rugby league and our community of Campbelltown and there is no doubt he has left a great legacy."

Macarthur MP Dr Michael Freelander also shared his sadness.

"South-west Sydney has lost a giant of our region, as has the wider Australian sporting community, with the tragic passing of rugby league legend Tommy Raudonikis," he wrote on Facebook.

"Tommy was an iconic figure in rugby league, particularly as a player and coach of the Western Suburbs Magpies.

"A real fighter, Tommy battled cancer for a long time and embodied the spirit of the south-west. Our thoughts are with Tommy and his family at this time."

Figures in NRL took to social media to share their grief.

Darryl Brohman tweeted Tommy was a "great bloke", "wonderful footballer" and a "true Aussie knockabout who could just about get away with anything".

Former Wests Tigers player posted a picture alongside Raudonikis on his Instagram stories.

"Terrible news just hearing the passing of our mate Tommy," he wrote.

"A true warrior on the field but a wonderful man off it.

"Loved his honesty and passion.

"Thinking of his former teammates, loved ones, and family [right now]."

Australian Rugby League Commission chair Peter V'landys described Raudonikis as "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.

"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."