Western Suburbs is taking on Newtown when legendary Magpies and Jets halfback Tommy Raudonikis arrives and sits on the hill behind a Victa lawnmowers sponsor marquee. We can only be at Lidcombe Oval.
It’s Round 12 of the Intrust Super Premiership (or NSW’s contribution to the NRL’s reserve grade, for those who want to be brutally honest and old-school about it). The inform Magpies are a feeder club for the NRL’s Wests Tigers, while Newtown has a similar deal with the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks.
Lidcombe Oval was home to Western Suburbs between 1967 and 1986. Today is a special occasion: the Magpies’ Return To Lidcombe event. It’s old boys day. It’s giant Wests Magpies flags. It’s brand new Magpies’ merch. It’s Victa jerseys. It’s cans. It’s Tommy. It’s the vibe. It’s suburban rugby league, just as us old fogies love it.
Shortly after kick-off, your author gets a call from former Maggies forward Mick Liubinskas, who appeared in the black and white, and a few times for Balmain, between 1974 and ’79. Liubinskas, these days a Wests Tigers board member and chair of the Magpies, organised Raudonikis’ appearance at Lidcombe and keeps his promise to let me know when the great man has arrived.
Raudokinis’s playing career spanned the late ‘60s till the early ‘80s. He was a rough and tough, no holds barred player and one of the most ferocious halfbacks of his era. During his time with the two clubs on show at Lidcombe today, Raudonikis helped transform Wests and Newtown from also-rans to serious title contenders.
Inside Sport finds Raudonikis, for those who know Lidcombe Oval, at the top of the hill roughly halfway between the visitors’ sheds and the main grandstand. In good spirits following a recent victory against a health setback, he’s already in catch-up mode with former team-mates and long-time Magpies’ fans.
(IMAGE AT TOP - from left: Ray Brown, Warren Boland, Graeme O’Grady, Tommy Raudonikis, Les Boyd and Don Moseley. (Image courtesy of Wests Archives; as appeared in the book Clouds Of Dust, Buckets Of Blood, author Gary Lester)