NSWRL Chief Executive David Trodden has paid tribute to Immortal John Raper, who passed away today aged 82.
Raper was one of the best lock forwards to ever play the game and was also named in the NSWRL Hall of Fame, NSW team of the Century and ARL Team of the Century.
“He was a giant of the game,” Trodden said.
“He was front and centre of that wonderful run of premierships by St George and remained a larger than life character both on and off the field.
“Until recent times, ‘Chook’ was a regular attendee at all our NSWRL functions, where he was always at the centre of the action. He was admired and much-loved.”
Raper was a Clive Churchill Medallist (1966), an Immortal (1981), an ARL Hall of Fame (2008) inductee, a two-time winner of the NSWRL Player of the Year (1961, 1965), and an inaugural inductee into the NSWRL Hall of Fame (2017).
Alongside his 39 Tests for Australia, in which he was named captain eight times, Raper also played 24 games for NSW from 1959 through to 1970. His appearances for NSW included a memorable match in 1963 when he scored four tries to help clean up Queensland 53-7.
Raper, who toured with the Kangaroos three times and played in two World Cups (1960, 1968), was a classic tackler and cover defender. His football brain meant he knew how the opposition’s play would turn out, so he was there every time to stop it.
He had a magnificent set of lungs, which allowed him to constantly take the ball up the middle often running over the top of tired defenders.
Legendary Rugby League broadcaster, the late Frank Hyde, rated ‘Chook’s’ performance in the Second Test against Great Britain on the 1963-64 Kangaroo Tour – that secured the Ashes for Australia for the first time in England for over 50 years - as the greatest 80 minutes of football by any player.
Raper made his first grade debut for Newtown in 1957 before moving to St George in 1959. He played in eight Grand Final wins for the Dragons from 1959-66 played 215 premiership games in total.
Raper also coached both clubs - St George in 1969 and Newton in 1978 – along with two seasons at the Sharks (1975-76).
Raper was married to his wife Caryl and had three sons, Stuart, Kurt and Aaron. Aaron and Stuart both played for Cronulla, with Stuart coaching the Sharks for three years before moving to the English Super League. Stuart is currently the NSWRL’s Referees High Performance Manager.
“Stuart is one of our most respected employees here at NSWRL and we all send our deepest sympathies to him and the entire Raper family,” Trodden said.