Rugby league great Tommy Raudonikis has died at age 70 after a long battle with cancer.

Rugby league great Tommy Raudonikis has died at age 70 after a long battle with cancer.

The former Western Suburbs, Newtown, NSW and Australia star was one of the game’s most colourful characters. He was just days short of his 71st birthday.

His loss is being mourned by fellow players, his former clubs and the NRL.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison also paid tribute.

“Condolences to the family of Tommy Raudonikis, a well-loved Australian and individual,” Morrison said on Wednesday.

“All of those who love their rugby league will certainly know about Tommy Raudonikis, he was one of game’s biggest characters and will be sadly missed in the rugby league family. Sincere condolences to his family and to the rugby league family as well.”

Raudonikis captained NSW in 1980’s inaugural State of Origin game and also went on to coach the Blues, giving birth to the infamous ‘Cattledog’ call; urging his players to start a fight with Queensland. His NSW side won the 1997 series 2-1, in the season divided by Super League, before being beaten 1-2 the following year by the Maroons.

Raudonikis played in an era where beer and cigarettes were considered an essential part of his footballing diet, yet starred in the game due to his incredible smarts and toughness. The little halfback was a ferocious competitor who embodied the ‘Fibros’ era of the Western Suburbs Magpies.

Raudonikis was a Kangaroos regular and won the Rothman’s Medal in the 1972 NSW Rugby League season while playing with his beloved Magpies. He was named in the Western Suburbs team of the century in 2004.

A first grade premiership eluded him. He played in the 1981 grand final, captaining Newtown against Parramatta, but the Jets were beaten 20-11 at the SCG.

Raudonikis coached his beloved Magpies for 114 games from 1995-99. It was a tough era for the club, with little success, and the club merged with the Balmain Tigers at the end of 1999 to form the joint venture Wests Tigers.

Raudonikis was born in Bathurst, NSW, the son of immigrants; a Lithuanian father and Swiss mother. He was an engineering apprentice with the RAAF for several years before rising to stardom in rugby league.

With his inimitable personality and trademark gravelly voice, Raudonikis also became a media favourite with rugby league fans.

He worked on 2GB’s Continuous Call Team, and was best mate’s with 2GB owner John Singleton, as well as colourful stints on Nine’s The Footy Show.

Tommy Raudonikis, coach of the New South Wales Blues looks at his players during a training session prior to the 1997 State of Origin match between the Queensland Maroons

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