R L Winger Posted April 8, 2021 Share Posted April 8, 2021 A man who couldn’t lie: Why one-of-a-kind Tommy defined integrity...Words by Roy Masters. “Integrity” has become such a hackneyed word in rugby league today, it is almost meaningless. Yet Tom Raudonikis, who died on Wednesday, defined it. He was incapable of telling a lie. He possessed an antennae, a built in early radar system which detected the strengths and weaknesses of others and allowed him to become a topdog on the football field and a champion of the underdog off it. He loathed hypocrisy and duplicity. One story demonstrates this. In 1984, he completed his second season as coach of Brisbane Brothers and became aware of moves to replace him. The club’s annual presentation night was approaching and none of the club committee had the guts to tell him he’d been sacked. Tom called me at my Sydney home and requested what he called “a special speech to stick it up the bastards.” Aware the Brothers was a Catholic Old Boys club and cognisant Tommy had been educated by the nuns at Cowra, I opted for a message designed to make the committee squirm over their treachery. Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” came to mind and, in those pre-email days, I dictated the speech over the phone, detailing the virtues the Cowra nuns had imbued in him, including honesty. He was to end the speech with a stage left turn to the seated committee men, pointing to the president who had once befriended him, saying, “Et tu, Brute.” I insisted Tom drink only two schooners before speaking. He called a few times through the day, concerned he could not deliver the speech without referring to his notes. “Tuck it down the front of your trousers and reference it when needed,” I said. “People will appreciate you have gone to the trouble to write it.” Later that day, he drove to Brisbane airport to collect Henry Foster, an indigenous player who had won the Player of the Year award. Tom tried out the speech on Henry and when he reached the “Et tu” bit, Henry said, “You’re kiddin’, Tom.” Just after midnight, my phone rang. It was Tommy telling me how successful the speech had been. “The players and their wives all stood up on the tables and cheered and cheered...and the committee blokes themselves.” However, he had a confession to make, consistent with the searing honesty which had been his lifetime companion. “Sorry mate,” he said. “But I had six schooners.” Of the hundreds of messages I have received since Tom’s passing, one from former NRL media manger, John Brady, resonated most. “He taught us many things,” Brady said. “He pulled a bit of snobbery out of all of us. He taught us not to look down on people.” “Brades’s” colleague, Geoff Carr, was Tom’s manager of the NSW State of Origin team. At the launch of the 1997 series, Carr’s namesake, NSW Premier Bob Carr, stood on the stage beside Tommy and it was noted the Blues coach wasn’t wearing socks. With the formalities complete, Geoff said, “Tommy, we’d better get you some socks.” As they parted, Tom turned to Geoff and said, “I don’t have any underpants either. You better get some of those, too.” On the eve of the NSW team’s trip to Melbourne for the MCG “Cattledog” match against Queensland, a fund raiser was held for Adam Ritson, a former Sharks and Eels player who suffered a serious head injury the previous year and was forced to retire aged 20. It was the final year of the Super League war and players from both the ARL and News Limited funded competitions met socially for the first time. The following morning, as Geoff hurried the players onto the bus, he found a dishevelled Tommy who declared, “I’ve got my socks on but can’t find my teeth.” Mobile phones in cars had become available and Tommy mocked the yuppies when stationary at traffic lights, reaching for an old handset on the front seat and engaging in an imaginary conversation. As a player, reigning premiership coach, the Storm’s Craig Bellamy, summed Tommy up best. “If I showed vision of Tommy to my team, they’d say, ‘He’s not a halfback’. He’s taking the ball up like a front rower, he’s tackling like a second rower...” Of all the modern players, Storm utility Brandon Smith reminds me most of Tommy with his fierce dummy half runs and skill at exploiting a gap in the defensive line. Like Tommy, Smith is also under-rated for his self appraisal of his play. But there is no way Tommy would be replaced after 50 minutes, as Smith sometimes is. Tommy would be racing up the stairs to the coach’s box, quicker than the coach was escaping it. As a coach, everyone wanted to play for Tommy but he could blur a message. Once, when asked what type of defensive pattern the NSW team would employ, he said, “We’ll slide, go up and in and then we’ll bash them.” At a time his loved ones are searching for meaning in life, Tom’s devoted partner, Trish, sent a text. It read “Tommy passed away at 7am on the 7th. He was 70 and he wore jersey No 7.” Seven is also the sacred number of the ancient gods, combining the square and the rectangle. There are also seven seas, seven days in the week, seven sacraments, seven wonders of the ancient world. But only one Tommy. Please remember him when you next use the word “integrity.” Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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