The venue manager at the pearly gates has today rushed to get everything in order for the arrival of one of rugby leagues great characters.

Western Sydney icon Tommy Raudonikis has died at the age of 70, following a lengthy battle with cancer – one that lasted much longer than anyone thought it would.

Born in 1950 to a Swiss mother and Lithuanian father in the Bathurst Migrant Camp, Raudonikis made up the early wave of New Australians to take up rugby league over soccer.

After school he spent three years with the RAAF in Wagga before signing with the Western Suburbs magpies, a rugby league club that would go on to become synonymous with his own name after 202 matches.

Known for his on-field toughness and working class fighting spirit, Raudonikis was recognised in the game as a revolutionary player and coach. He led New South Wales as captain in the inaugural State of Origin game in 1980 – playing against his good mate, the late inaugural Queensland captain Artie Beetson.

While Raudonikis is remembered as an icon of NSW rugby league, he also holds a special place in the hearts of South-West Queensland – after playing a pivotal role in the early careers of Alfie Langer and the Walters brothers, in his coaching role at the Ipswich Jets.

Today, as he hits the change rooms for the last time, it is understood that Tommy Terrific will be given a heroes welcome at the leagues club upstairs.

A pallet of Tooheys New has been ordered to time with his arrival, as Saint Peter puts an extra security guard on duty in the TAB.

Artie will be waiting for him at the early bird seafood buffet.

Vale Tommy Raudonikis. 1950-2021.


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