A State Funeral for Mr John Raper MBE took place at 10.30am on Monday, 28 February 2022 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, for family, friends, dignitaries and members of the public.
The State Funeral was an important opportunity to honour the Australian rugby league ‘Immortal’ in recognition of his remarkable contribution to the sport of rugby league.
Mr Raper, who passed away earlier this month, 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.
He was one of the original four ‘Immortals’, alongside Clive Churchill, Bob Fulton and Reg Gasnier, and his rugby league career was outstanding.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said Mr Raper gave so much to the sport and to this state. The State Funeral was an opportunity to honour his memory, his talent and his achievements.
Watch the funeral
Watch a replay of the State Funeral Service for Mr John Raper MBE, which was held at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Monday, 28 February.
12 April 1939 – 9 February 2022
John William “Chook” Raper was born in Camperdown in inner-city Sydney, one of nine brothers born to Arthur and Irene Raper.
John made his first-grade rugby league debut for Newtown in 1957 at just 17 years of age. In a career that spanned nearly two decades, John became widely regarded as a supreme all-rounder and one of the best rugby league players the world has ever known. He played 215 first-grade premiership games, first with Newtown (1957-1958) and later with his beloved St George (1959-1969) where he won eight consecutive Grand Finals. John played 39 Tests for Australia, captaining the team eight times in 1967 and 1968.
John was extremely competitive. He loved the game and was a strategist, spending hours studying his opponents’ games. He played hard but fair and was never sent off. His commitment to training and physical fitness was legendary and way ahead of its time.
All this, combined with natural talent and exceptional versatility, won him an extraordinary number of footballing accolades. John was NSW Rugby League’s official Player of the Year in 1960 and 1964. In 1981, John was named one of the four original Rugby League Immortals along with Reg Gasnier, Clive Churchill and Bob Fulton. In 1985, he was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.
In 2000, he was awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for service to Australian Sport. In 2008, John was separately named in the list of Australia’s 100 Greatest Players and selected at lock in the Australian Rugby League’s Team of the Century. John was a serving Police Officer for much of his rugby league career and, in 2008, he was named as lock-forward in the NSW Police Team of the Century.
Rugby league remained central throughout John’s life. Following his premiership career, John joined the Western Suburbs club in Newcastle as captain-coach, and went on to coach at Cronulla, Newtown and Kurri-Kurri. He served as a City, NSW and Test selector. In 1988 when asked what job he enjoyed most, he replied simply: “I enjoy coaching the kids”.
John Raper MBE was a larger-than-life character, the quintessential Australian larrikin and a passionate supporter of many good causes. Behind the public persona, he was also a kind and loving family man. As his health declined in his final years, his adored wife Caryl was constantly by his side, caring for him. John will be greatly missed by Caryl, his three sons Stuart, Kurt and Aaron, two daughters-in-law Cathy and Sally and his seven grandkids, Jake, Maddy, Alex, Thomas, Max, Sionni and Kai.