The St George Illawarra Dragons are deeply saddened by the passing of St George Dragons and rugby league immortal Johnny Raper.
Raper passed away on Wednesday following a long battle with illness. He was 82.
Raper commenced his first grade career at Newtown in 1957 before joining St George two years later amid their famed 'Never Before, Never Again' run of 11 consecutive premierships, of which he featured in the remaining eight grand final wins.
Raper captain-coached the Red V in 1969 to a minor semi-final berth before calling time on his illustrious first grade career.
One of the greatest ever lock forwards to grace a rugby league paddock, Raper retired with 215 first grade games and 57 tries to his name (180 games and 47 tries across 11 seasons with St George respectively).
Five seasons in the Newcastle competition followed before he returned to the NSWRL premiership in a coaching capacity at the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks (1975-76) and Newtown Jets (1978).
Raper played 39 Tests for Australia, in addition to 35 tour matches, captaining his country on eight occasions including victory at the 1968 World Cup. He donned the blue of New South Wales on 31 occasions.
Raper, alongside fellow St George great Reg Gasnier, was named one of the first ever Immortals in 1981. Induction to the Sport Australia Hall of Fame followed four years later.
Raper entered the Australia Rugby League Hall of Fame in 2002 and earned selection in Australia Rugby League's Team of the Century in 2008.
"Johnny Raper was an inspiration to his teammates and the entire St George organisation and is one of the key reasons why the famous Red V holds such esteem to this very day," St George Illawarra and St George District chairman Craig Young said.
"Johnny was a larger than life character on and off the field who loved the game dearly. He will be sadly missed and never forgotten.
"Everyone involved with St George District and the St George Illawarra Dragons send their condolences to the Raper family."
The Dragons will communicate how the club will commemorate the life and career of Johnny Raper in due course.
New South Wales government confirm Raper state funeral
The State Funeral Service for Australian rugby league immortal John Raper MBE will be held at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) on Monday, February 28 at 10:30am.
Mr Raper's family accepted the offer of a State Funeral by the NSW Government in recognition of his remarkable contribution to the sport of rugby league.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said Mr Raper, who passed away last week aged 82 after a long battle with dementia, was regarded as the greatest rugby league lock forward, with some experts considering him the best rugby league player ever.
"A State Funeral is a worthy tribute for Johnny Raper who was one of the most loved players in the history of rugby league. It’s only fitting that family, friends and supporters gather at the SCG in recognition of his achievements and life," Mr Perrottet said.
The State Funeral will be an important opportunity to honour and pay tribute to his contributions with his family, friends, dignitaries and members of the public.
The family selected the SCG for the service due to its strong connection to Raper as he was a lifetime member and won eight consecutive grand finals there with his beloved St George Dragons.
The service at the SCG will be an outdoor seated event. Attendees at the SCG will be required to follow appropriate COVID-19 measures.
Gates to the SCG for the Funeral Service will open at 9.45am and guests and members of the public will need to be seated by 10.15am sharp. The funeral will also be live streamed for people unable to attend from 10.30am.