Despite the merger of Balmain and Wests in 2000, the Magpies remained the legendary halfback’s true love.
Footy fans of all ages are well-versed with Tommy Raudonikis the character, and the Cattledog-calling Blues coach. But re-discovered footage from a few years’ ago highlights just how much he meant to Western Suburbs, and to the fans and former players who still bleed for the club.
The rugby league legend, who died just days short of his 71st birthday, had plenty to do with the new joint-venture club after 2000, but it was his beloved Magpies, who have continued on in the lower grades for the past two decades, that remained his true love in the game.
A clip from a 2017 episode of The Footy Show showcased Raudonikis’ trip to Lidcombe Oval for a Ron Massey Cup game between his former side and the St Marys Bulls.
In true Tommy style, the club legend was invited into the Magpies dressing room to give a pre-game address to the players representing the jersey he bled for. (Watch the clip at the top of the page to see what Tommy had to say!)
It also gave time for Raudonikis to chat with some former teammates, as well as the diehard fans who had stuck with the club long after their merger with Balmain in the top grade.
“People used to ask me, who’s the toughest bloke you ever played against?” said Steve Blyth, who played for the Magpies in the 1970s, as he sat in the grandstand with Raudonikis.
“And I’d say, ‘I can’t really say’ – because I played with all the tough blokes – Les Boyd, Tom Raudonikis, that’s why I wore the jumper mate, and proud to play with blokes like yourself.”
Wayne Smith, who played 161 times for the Magpies across the backline, was full of praise for his former skipper.
“This bloke here was the best captain you could ever want, because everything he ever said was positive.
“You were never negative mate, you were always positive and you showed the way. It was an absolute pleasure to play alongside you Thomas.”
Few figures in rugby league are more revered, and tributes have come from all corners of the game since the news of Raudonikis’ passing this morning.
“He was a wonderful player, as tough as they come and he drove a lot of things as a player which probably influenced the game today,” Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett said today.
“That was that era, the great Western Suburbs teams that he was a part of, and Newtown and that, New South Wales and Australia. He had a wonderful career.”
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