'Chook' Raper's emotional speech for 80th Birthday

Rugby League Immortal Johnny Raper made an emotional speech and even broke into song during his recent 80th Birthday celebrations at the Garrawarra Centre.

Raper, regarded as one of the greatest players to ever lace up a boot after boasting a career which included eight premierships with St George and 24 games for NSW, was admitted to a nursing home in Sydney’s south with health issues last year.

His birthday was well attended with more than 45 people turning up including his wife Caryl, sons, Stuart, Aaron and Kurt, brothers Robert, Maurie, Michael, Gerard, Paul and Peter, and friends Billy Smith, Noel Kelly and John Riley.

“It was just a really nice, pleasant afternoon,” Stuart Raper told nswrl.com.au

“He’s going OK. At the end of last year we were very concerned with his health, he was losing a lot of weight but he seems to have levelled off and looking at him the other day, he’ll live until he’s 100.”

Stuart said the birthday festivities lasted a couple of hours and the highlights included John breaking into song to recreate his Jax the Ripper Tyreman Ad from 1976 (worth a look here on Youtube), and also a traditional Welsh song, Sosban Fach, to honour Caryl’s heritage.

“I’ve never seen him smile so much,” Stuart said.

“He would have been exhausted after it. I didn’t know how he was going to take that many people in a room but he was good, he just kept smiling.

“Everyone went up to him and said hello, then we had some speeches and he made one too which was really moving.

“Everyone was quite moved by what he said in thanking everyone and to the clarity of it was quite amazing as well.”