Rugby League legend and NSWRL Hall of Fame Inductee Tom Raudonikis, aged 70, died after a long battle with illness today.
Raudonikis, affectionately known as 'Tom Terrific', was one of the toughest players to ever lace up a boot and had the rare distinction of both playing for and coaching the NSW Blues.
NSWRL chairman Dr George Peponis OAM, who played alongside and against Raudonikis, led the tributes for him today.
"They broke the mould with Tommy Raudonikis," Dr Peponis said.
"Pound for pound he was one of the toughest and most competitive players that I've ever played with or against. If you were in the trenches then Tommy was the player you wanted there right next to you.
"He was courageous, he never took a backwards step, and he was the type of player that other players loved to play with because you knew he would lead the way.
"It's a sad day that he is no longer with us and the NSWRL would like to extend its deepest condolences to his many family and friends."
Raudonikis was born in Bathurst on 13 April 1950 and shifted to Western Suburbs Magpies from Wagga in 1969 following recommendations from former New Zealand international Graham Kennedy and former Magpies legend Arthur Summons.
He played 200 games for the Magpies before shifting to Newtown Jets in 1980 where he turned in an inspiring performance in the 1981 Grand Final against Parramatta Eels which included a strong solo try but it wasn't enough to save them from a 20-11 defeat.
The tough-as-teak halfback made his first appearance for NSW in 1971, toured New Zealand with the Australian squad later that year and won the Rothmans Medal for the best and fairest player in 1972.
Raudonikis was a fierce competitor who terrorised his opponents and enjoyed a distinguished representative career which included two World Cups (1975, 1977) and four Ashes series wins (1973-74, 1977-78).
He played 21 games for NSW in interstate matches from 1971-80 for 19 wins and two draws before captaining the Blues to a hard-fought 20-10 loss in the inaugural Origin match.
He later coached NSW for two seasons in 1997-98 where he guided the Blues to a 2-1 series win in 1997 and suffered a 2-1 series loss the following season which included a narrow 24-23 defeat in the opening game.
Raudonikis was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 1982, was inducted into the NRL Hall of Fame in 2008 and the NSWRL Hall of Fame in 2019.
"Tom Raudonikis was an icon of our sport and a larger than life character in every sense of the word," NSWRL Chief Executive David Trodden said.
"He always played with plenty of passion for both the Western Suburbs Magpies and Newtown Jets and never took a backward step on the field.
"He had the honour of captaining NSW in the inaugural State of Origin match in 1980 and then returned to coach them, including a memorable series win in 1997.
"Tommy had a long battle with illness recently but he never gave up and tackled that with the same trademark fight he had always displayed throughout his life.
"There wasn't anyone quite like him and it is unlikely that there will be again. He will be sorely missed, and our sympathies are with his family and friends."