Raudonikis: 'Finish the job'

Raudonikis: 'Finish the job'

Long after the final siren, Tommy Raudonikis remembers the harrowing feeling like it was yesterday.

It's 1997, Game Three – a dead-rubber – where the Raudonikis-coached NSW side had earned the series bragging rights after wins in Origins I and II respectively.

Still, the match was a golden opportunity for the side to secure a rare clean sweep.

But a missed chance at that.

Invited into the Blues' inner-sanctum on Monday night, Raudonikis spoke at length of the need for NSW to finish the 2018 series on a high, to fully enjoy the success of the campaign.

Tommy Raudonikis Presents NSW Blues' Game Three Jerseys
Tommy Raudonikis Presents NSW Blues' Game Three Jerseys ©NRLPhotos / Grant Trouville

'Devastated' after the Game Three loss that year, the tough-as-nails Raudonikis recalls the empty feeling of lifting the prized Origin shield on the back of a loss. Between some laughs and jeers, the message gets through to Fittler's men.

Because as light-hearted as Raudonikis is, he's an inspiration, tenfold. A man who's three times overcome a battle with cancer commands the respect of the room.

Which he receives, and then some.

"We had a phone call when we were in Melbourne, it was the day of the game... the day he got the all clear from the doctor, he had a tumour cut out of his neck," Fittler says of Raudonikis.

"It was wonderful to have him here, he couldn't help himself, he got a bit excited. He's a real character, he's really passionate about State of Origin."

The current crop receives their jerseys and a handshake, and a parting message from Tommy – most, if not all, which aren't fit for publication.

The passion hasn't wavered – nor has the desire of Fittler's Blues to leave Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night, 3-0.

Tommy Raudonikis Presents NSW Blues' Game Three Jerseys
Tommy Raudonikis Presents NSW Blues' Game Three Jerseys ©NRLPhotos / Grant Trouville