Vale Tom Raudonikis

First Big Artie, and now, Tommy

Rugby League players don’t seem to live long these days. Artie Beetson died when he was only 66 years of age. And now Tommy Raudonikis has died of cancer at 70. However Big Artie did love meat pies. I once saw Artie downing a cream bun over a flat white at a Gloucester cafe near Barrington Tops in NSW. That was in 2003, only three years before Artie died.

Plus Tommy was a smoker.

Me and my brother used to love to watch Arthur Beetson play for Balmain and Tommy Raudonikis play for Newtown Jets. It was great when Arthur returned to Queensland to play origin football. He was so fast for a big man. That was when Rugby League was a working class game where players fought to win the NRL for their local community. Sure there was money in the game but it came from the spectators. If you played well, people would support their local club by turning up on Saturday. The clubs received their main revenue from that support. Poker machines came later as a money spinner. Paramatta, the club that defeated the Newtown Jets in the 1981 Grand Final now gets over $50M a year from poker machines. Surely there must be a better way to finance sport?

We know that when Arthur Beetson died in 2006 Anna Bligh came out to pay her respects to a great model for aboriginal people. Tommy was Artie’s mate and shed a tear for the big fella. But there was no love lost for Anna Bligh in Ipswich when Anna sold Queensland Rail. Tommy coached the Ipswich Jets in the Brisbane Rugby League comp. Ipswich was hard hit when Labor privatised QRail losing the railway workshops that had provided so many jobs over the years.

Tommy Raudonikis came out in support of the Electrical Trades Union when Howard wanted to introduce the Work Choices laws that cut back on union rights, wanting to make every worker a contractor under Australian Workplace Agreements (AWA’s). He said:

Tom Raudonikis Speaking at QCU rally in KGSq against WorkChoices in 2006

“I am in this campaign for the long haul. I want to see the worker get a fair go and they are not getting a fair go with these new Workplace laws”. A combined effort of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Electrical Trades Union, CFMEU mining division, CFMEU construction division and the Plumbers Union, the campaign travelled throughout Central Queensland in a bid to distribute information on the impact of the new WorkChoices legislation to workers.

On May Day 2006, the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) got Tommy Raudonikis to speak against AWA’s at the Boundary Hotel in West End. The pub was packed with members of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and the Construction Forestry Mining and Engineering Union (CMFEU). Chartered buses were waiting to take the workers to and from the pub. Both these unions had big contingents in the annual May Day march.

Dick Williams was the State Secretary of the ETU back then retiring in 2009 to make way for Peter Simpson who led the campaign against the privatisation of Qld Rail. Dick Williams became the President of the Qld Labor Party.

ETU’s “anna bligh sold us out” billboard on Gladstone Road West End
Tom Raudonikis meets concerned workers at the Gladstone Leagues Club in 2006. 

I don’t know what Tommy Raudonikis thought about the fight to stop Anna Bligh selling out the workers of Queensland or Joh sacking the SEQEB workers in 1985 but I’d like to think Tom would have been on the side of the underdogs as he was when he played for Newtown agains the mighty Paramatta.

But you won’t hear any of this on the commercial networks or on the ABC.

My condolences to his family and friends.

Ian Curr
8 April 2021

1981 Rugby League Grand Final between Paramatta Eels and Newtown Jets