• Sat. Oct 29th, 2022

Legendary Wests halfback Tom Raudonikis was on everyone’s minds at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday when the Tigers hosted North Queensland.

Apr 11, 2021

Of all the Tommy Raudonikis yarns spun this week, the old Chili hill tale from his Magpies coaching days rings loudest after the Cowboys rained all over his Leichhardt Oval send-off with a storied upset that at one point threatened to disintegrate into a record comeback.
The story of Raudonikis sitting atop a heartbreak hill in Campbelltown, out the back of Chili’s steakhouse, his players running non-stop and ragged until he finished his six-pack, must surely have appealed to Michael Maguire more than once throughout this one.
How else to respond to a stunning 28-6 half-time deficit against a Cowboys side still yet to win since Todd Payten returned to Townsville?
And then with 24 points throughout a frantic second half, the threat of the mightiest comebacks, worthy of the mighty celebrations for which “Tommy Terrific” was known so well.
For the first 40 minutes with everything to play for, and a rugby league icon to farewell, the Tigers simply didn’t.
A standing ovation in the seventh minute marked the loveable halfback’s passing this week, with his old No.7 jersey retired across all four grades for the day.
Once the whistle sounded though the sell-out crowd had only forward passes out of dummy-half, arm grabbing tackles and costly fumbles from their side, putting North Queensland’s first win at the venue since 2000 on a platter.
The Leichhardt faithful pay their respects to Raudonikis
“Tommy would be embarrassed by youse Cattledooooooog,” mused one disgruntled fan as halftime loomed.
The ground announcer’s forlorn ‘Tigers’ chant was met with boos that followed the side up the tunnel and into the sheds, where a fuming Maguire met them with a demeanour Raudonikis sported all too well.
Just as it was when Tommy was in his prime, oh to be a fly on the wall during Maguire’s half-time address.
Whatever was said or sprayed it sunk in, because suddenly the Tigers started to swim against the tide.
For all of Scott Drinkwater’s first half trickery, with two try-assists and another of his own, the Tigers answered in kind after the break.
David Nofoaluma had a horror first 40 minutes, easily his worst in recent memory as Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Murray Tualagi came calling repeatedly down his right edge and emerging with three tries between them.
It was Nofoaluma who started the fightback in the 52nd minute, getting one back when he latched onto an Adam Doueihi long ball.
Luke Brooks then threaded a grubber through for Luciano Leilua to reel it in and ground it down all with one very large left hand.
When Luke Garner hit and spun his way over, the Tigers had a third try in six minutes and only eight points left in the deficit.
An obstruction ruling against James Roberts after Nofoaluma had scurried over gave North Queensland room to move.
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Lachlan Burr’s charge for a rare four-pointer after another Cowboys bomb went down gave them more.
At 34-20 with nine minutes to play the Tigers weren’t done though, Tommy Talau on the end of a left-edge Luciano Leilua raid that kept them kicking a while longer.
As is their wont, and as could only be the way on such a day, the Tigers and rugby league’s higher powers kept it in the balance right until the end.
Talau got himself across the line again but put a boot across the sideline. And finally Joe Ofahengaue got himself into the in-goal, but all too late with just one minute to play.
The Cowboys held on to break Paytens duck, doing it without $2.5 million of Michael Morgan, Jason Taumalolo and Josh McGuire if you dont mind.
On a day where tributes were paid to one of the fullest lives lived in rugby league, this one had everything.
Just like Tommy, warts and all right to the end.