State Funeral for rugby league 'Immortal' John Raper MBE
Rugby league ‘Immortal’ Johnny Raper MBE to have his memory, his talent and his achievements remembered at a State Funeral
The family of Australian rugby league ‘Immortal’ Johnny Raper MBE has accepted the offer of a State Funeral by the NSW Government in recognition of his remarkable contribution to the sport of rugby league.
“On behalf of the people of NSW, I extend my condolences to Mr Raper’s wife Caryl and three sons Stuart, Kurt and Aaron Raper, his extended family and friends,” Premier Dominic Perrottet said.
Mr Perrottet said Mr Raper, who passed away this 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.
"Johnny Raper was one of the original four ‘immortals’, alongside Clive Churchill, Bob Fulton and Reg Gasnier, and his rugby league career was outstanding. He gave so much to the sport and to this state. We will all have an opportunity to honour his memory, his talent and his achievements at a State Funeral,” Mr Perrottet said.
“He was respected, much-loved and gave so much to the game inspiring many thousands of players who wanted to play like him. Aside from his on-field skills, Mr Raper was also considered one of the game’s greatest characters.”
Affectionately known as “Chook”, Mr Raper represented Australia in 39 Tests, including eight as captain, and played in eight consecutive grand final wins for St George from 1959.
He was born in Camperdown in Sydney’s inner west and grew up in a working-class family of nine boys. He played junior rugby league for the Camperdown Dragons before representing Newtown's President's Cup side in 1956. A year later, aged 18, he made his first-grade debut for Newtown. In 1958, he represented NSW Colts as a lock against Great Britain.
Mr Raper won the Clive Churchill Medal in 1966; was named an Immortal in 1981; was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985; was awarded an MBE from Britain in 2000 for Australian Sports; inducted into the Australian Rugby League and International Hall of Fame in 2002; and named in Team of the Century in 2008.
Details of the State Funeral will be released at a later date.