Wayne Bennett reckons heaven isn’t ready for one of rugby league’s greatest characters, Tommy Raudonikis.
“But they’ll have to handle him,” Bennett grinned on Wednesday after the passing of the rugby league legend.
“He was a wonderful player, as tough as they come.
“They don’t make them like Tommy anymore.
“And he has done a lot of things as a player that has influenced the game today.
“But he was a larrikin as well, and that was just that era.”
Raudonikis passed away on Wednesday following his long cancer battle at age 70.
In a stellar career, he played over 239 games for the Western Suburbs Magpies and the Newtown Jets before contributing further to the Magpies as a coach in the 1990’s.
His playing and coaching career also extended heavily into the representative arena having played 60 games for Australia and 24 games for New South Wales, where he also featured as coach of the Blues for six games between 1997 and 1998.
For all Raudonikis’s on-field achievements, it’s his cheeky and infectious personality that Bennett will never forget.
The super coach has fond memories of coaching against the man affectionately known as “Tommy” during the 1998 State of Origin series.
Tommy Raudonikis presents jerseys to the NSW Origin team in Brisbane, 09-07-2018.Source:Supplied
Bennett remembers his Queensland stars Kevin Walters and Allan Langer going out of their way to stir Raudonikis during a nightclub bonding session.
As the Blues coach, Tommy wanted nothing to do with the men in Maroon.
“Tommy didn’t know we (Queensland) were at the same nightclub and Alf snuck out behind something and started to hug him,” he recalled.
“Tommy was pushing Alf away, saying don’t touch me, don’t come near me.
“So he ended up taking the whole (NSW) team back out of the nightclub.
“But Alf found out where they went, and he annoyed him again.
“He sent Tommy around the twist.”
Bennett also received a close up look at Raudonikis’s larrikin ways during his first tour with Australia in 1971.
“That was a bit of an eye opener for me,” he smiled.
“I was 21, a young policeman and we were away for about 10 days.
“He didn’t teach me a few things, I made sure I stayed away from him.”
Jokes aside, Bennett has enormous respect for Raudonikis.
“There were no agendas with Tommy, just emotion and passion,” he said.
“He told you how it was- he was a remarkable guy.”
Bennett believes it’s fitting that Raudonikis will join his great mate and former Queensland Origin rival, Arthur Beetson in heaven.
“I hope they catch up and tell a few stories,” he said.
“They are both two great players from the game.
“Arty can tell Tommy about what he has been up to upstairs.”
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