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Tommy: Legendary Tales From A New Book About A Unique Life In League


The rugby league lost a legend in April when Tommy Raudonikis passed away, but his legend will live on forever.

A new book from rugby league authors Ian Collis and Alan Whiticker explains why there have been few more tenacious players in the game than “Tom Terrific”.

An inspiring captain who has often faced players twice his size, his sincere attitude on the playing field in the 1970s and early 1980s is part of rugby league folklore and has earned him a place in the Hall of Fame. fame of the NRL.

He played 201 games for his beloved Western Suburbs Magpies, as well as winning the Rothman Medal for Best and Fairest Player of the 1972 season, before ending his playing career with stints at Newtown and Brisbane Brothers.

Raudonikis went on to make 29 tests, including nine World Cup appearances, but his efforts for the NSW Blues and at club level have been equally inspiring.

Extremely competitive, both on and off the pitch, Raudonikis regularly delivered the goods when called upon to produce that “extra something”.

In 1995, Raudonikis returned to Sydney as coach of the Magpies after a long career in Brisbane. In just his second year, Tommy brought Wests back to the playoffs in the 20-team ARL competition.

75. Tom Raudonikis – Hall of Fame

The following year he led the success of the NSW Blues to State of Origin.

Controversial, both on and off the pitch, there was only one Tommy Raudonikis.

TOMMY, The extraordinary career of Tom Raudonikis by Ian Collis & Alan Whiticker is available from any good bookseller or online at www.newhollandpublishers.com.

One of the unforgettable partnerships Raudonikis forged during his career was with the coach of Wests Roy Masters in the late 1970s.

In this chapter of the book, Collis and Whiticker detail the “Fibros era” of the Magpies which ultimately ended in a final heartache.

Roy Masters at Wests

Some coaches are made for certain clubs – Jack Gibson for Easts, Harry Bath for St George, Bob Fulton for Manly – but it’s no more obvious than Roy Masters’ time at Wests.

The acerbic and cultured schoolteacher had coached Australia’s first schoolchildren on their undefeated tour of England in 1972 and unsuccessfully fought club politics in Penrith before joining Wests as a lower class in 1976.

Taking over from Keith Holman as freshman coach in 1978, Masters withheld payment for freshman work because the Wests Leagues were facing insolvency and the football club’s annual grant went out of business. was dried up.

“People say Roy was a motivator and not a tactical coach, but that’s very wrong,” Tommy said. Rugby League Week in 2009.

“He was both, but he was the best motivator I’ve played under. Call it brainwashing, call it whatever you like, but I didn’t need any motivation anyway.

‘[Roy] was one of us. He was like a father to all of us.

Wests Roy Masters coach celebrates victory. © Sydney Morning Herald

Masters had a group of capable club players to lean on – John Donnelly, Les Boyd, Graeme O’Grady, Shayne Day, Steve Blythe, Don Moseley, Wayne Smith, John Dorahy – skillfully led by his little general on the pitch. Tommy Raudonikis.

The Masters’ best chance of saving the club from financial disaster, he told a breathless press man, clinging to his every word, was for Wests to play a brand of football that would bring back fans at Lidcombe Oval.

Adopting an aggressive, prisoner-free playstyle, the old-fashioned Magpies rose to the top of the prime minister rankings in 1978.

Masters used pop psychology on his players; describing the Magpies as harsh “fibros” in the suburbs while Manly’s well-paid “silvertails” lived by the beach in glass mansions.

Roy was one of us. He was like a father to all of us.

Tom raudonikis

He exposed them to literature (it was Masters who blasted his players with the metaphor “clouds of dust, buckets of blood” which became the team’s rallying cry) and introduced “the slaps ”for extra motivation before their matches.

The approach worked … for a while.

The Masters found willing followers in Captain ‘Tom Terrific’, legendary ‘Dallas’ Donnelly and spirited NSW Country product Les Boyds.

“I hated the opposition as if they had done something to my family,” Raudonikis once said.

“I hated the other half like he did something to my sister.”

The first idea that something had changed dates back to early 1978 when Manly and Wests were invited to play an exhibition match in Melbourne as part of a ‘football festival’ promotion by the Fitzroy VFL club.

Only 1,200 fans watched the Rugby League match, which exploded into violence soon after kick-off.

The game didn’t endear the game in Australian rule-mad Melbourne, but it set the stage for a controversial season in Sydney.

At the representative level, Australia held a series of three tests against the Kiwis in 1978 ahead of the year-end Kangaroo tour. Tommy dominated the start of the rep season but had to fend off challenges from running back Steve Morris (NSW Country) and Greg Oliphant (Queensland) to reclaim his test crown in the third test of the series.

Raudonikis established a winning halves combination with new Australian test captain Bob Fulton in this match – the perfect combination of brilliance and raw strength in a young squad.

Tom Raudonikis tears up his old club while playing for Newtown in 1980.
Tom Raudonikis tears up his old club while playing for Newtown in 1980.
© New Holland Publishers

Against all odds, Wests finished atop first place in 1978 in what was an incredibly open rugby league season following the demise of Easts, Saints and Souths.

The five finalists could have won the grand final that year, but Manly, Parramatta and even Cronulla had a better chance of winning the prime minister post than the Minor Magpies.

John Donnelly and Les Boyds had both been cited by NSWRL during the season – Boyd successfully appealed his suspension by taking his case to the Supreme Court – but Wests has been called a “thug” in some sections of the media.

Wests played the game “hard and hard”, Masters told reporters, and was able to stress that no player has been sent off during the season.

But the Magpies had played on emotion for much of the season and were running out of steam before the final.

As minor premiers, Wests got a pass in the first week of the final, but then fell to Cronulla in the major semifinal, 14-10.

Facing a seasoned Manly in the preliminary final (the Sea Eagles had to beat Parramatta in a midweek replay to advance to the final), the Magpies were beaten on their merits, 14-7.

Manly then beat Cronulla in a replay of the Grand Final that year – after playing five games in 17 days – while Wests lost both semi-finals, shattering Tommy’s dream of leading the club to a great finale.

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