75. Tom Raudonikis

Although Tom Raudonikis was a larrikin worthy of mentoring Dallas Donnelly on and off the field, he also mixed toughness with a speed off the mark that allowed him to create opportunities, an ability to organise and select his forwards as runners or alternatively utilise the talents outside him, and a short kicking game that could be deadly.

His defence would have done any forward proud, and he could grass opponents of any size with his copybook tackling technique.

Born in Cowra to Ukrainian parents, Raudonikis grew up in Wagga Wagga and while serving in the air force there came to the attention of Arthur Summons, who helped him join Western Suburbs (Sydney) in 1969.

Two years later, Raudonikis made his debut for NSW and Australia, and he played his first Test against New Zealand in 1972. Thereafter he was a regular in Australian sides throughout the 1970s.

He made two Kangaroo tours (1973 and 1978), played in four Ashes series, two World Series (1975 and 1977) as well as Tests against New Zealand (1978) and France (1978). He also claimed the Rothmans Medal in 1972.

Raudonikis spearheaded Wests rise through the 1970s from also-rans to contenders, and he had the same effect in three seasons at Newtown.

After retiring as a player, he coached Brothers and Ipswich in Queensland before spending a stint as coach of Wests. He coached the NSW State of Origin team in 1997 and 1998.

Position: Halfback.

Clubs: Wagga Kangaroos 1969; Western Suburbs 1969–79; Newtown 1980–82; Brisbane Brothers 1983.

Games for NSW: 24 (1971–80; includes one Origin match 1980).

Tests for Australia: 20 (1972–80) — two as captain.

World Cup matches: Nine (1972–77).

Representative landmarks: Kangaroo tours 1973, 1978; World Cup 1972; World Series 1975, 1977; Australian tours of New Zealand 1971, 1980.