Rugby league Immortal Johnny Raper farewelled at state funeral in Sydney
Rugby league great Johnny Raper has been remembered as one of the game’s greatest players and a loving family man at a state funeral in Sydney.
- Raper died earlier this month, aged 82
- John Howard described Raper as an “Australian sporting character”
- Raper won eight premierships with St George and captained Australia during his career
Hundreds of mourners attended Monday’s service at the SCG, including NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet, ARL commission chairman Peter V’landys and NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo.
Rugby league greats Mal Meninga, Laurie Daley and Wayne Pearce were among the sport’s dignitaries present.
Family, friends and members of the public gathered to farewell the legendary lock known as “Chook”, who died aged 82 on February 9 after a six-year battle with dementia.
Raper won eight premierships as a player with St George between 1959 and 1966, played 39 Tests for Australia and was inducted as one of the game’s inaugural Immortals alongside Reg Gasnier, Clive Churchill and Bob Fulton in 1981.
Former Australian prime minister John Howard, a Dragons supporter, spoke of the enormity of Raper’s achievements and his personality.
“We love our sporting heroes,” Mr Howard said.
“He not only left behind a wonderful legacy in his chosen sport but also as an Australian sporting character.
Raper was the eldest of nine boys born in Camperdown in Sydney’s inner-west in 1939.
After his debut for Newton in 1957 he moved to St George in 1959 while working as a policeman.
He enjoyed much success in the international arena and was remembered for helping Australia beat Great Britain in 1963 to claim the Ashes overseas for the first time in 50 years.
Raper captained Australia on eight occasions and was awarded an MBE in 2000.
He married wife Caryl in 1961 and they had three sons, Stuart, Kurt and Aaron.
“You’ll hear the phrase that when he was made, they broke the mould,” Stuart Raper said.
Raper later became a selector for the the Kangaroos and NSW and was remembered as one of the first celebrity footballers.
In a fitting finale, the current St George Illawarra squad formed a guard of honour as Raper’s body left the SCG to the tune of When The Saints Go Marching In.