Johnny Raper Death – Obituary: Rugby League Immortal and Dragons legend Johnny “Chook” Raper has sadly passed away at the age of 82 after a long battle with dementia.
Raper was the last surviving member of St George’s four Immortals Reg Gasnier, Graeme Langlands, and Norm Provan, who passed away in October.
Raper is regarded as the greatest lock forward to ever play rugby league and some experts rate him as the best player ever, while he is affectionately known as one of the game’s greatest characters.
Raper began his career at Newtown in 1957 and was a member of the Dragons’ dream run of 11 premierships from 1956 to 1966, winning eight in a row from his arrival in 1959.
Raper was a regular in representative teams scoring seven tries in 35 games for NSW Firsts and both City and Country teams, while he scored 11 tries in 40 Tests for the Kangaroos.
He was the winner of the Harry Sunderland Medal (1964), Clive Churchill Medal (1966) and he was named one of the four original Immortals in 1981.
The brilliant forward was inducted into the Australian Hall of Fame and the International Hall of Fame in 2002.
Raper burst onto the scene for Sydney Colts against Great Britain in 1958, but his career really took off for St George the following year.
In a superb 1959 season, Raper played for NSW, Australia in three Tests against NZ, making his Test debut at five-eighth, and he toured with the Kangaroos in a year in which St George won the premiership while going through the season undefeated.
From 1959 to 1967 he made 33 Test appearances, toured with the Kangaroos three times (1959-60, 1963-64 & 1967-68), and appeared in two World Cup campaigns (1960 and 1968) – the latter as captain.
He still holds the record for Tests against France with 12 appearances.
Raper had a reputation as the game’s finest cover-defender with a superb tackling technique, while he also possessed a slick running game and brilliant passing skills.
However, it was his knowledge of the game and the fierce competitor in him that made him such a special rugby league player.
Raper was one of the game’s greatest characters and stories of his off-field antics have become legendary over the years.
Sadly Raper spent the latter part of his life in a Sydney nursing home.
He is survived by his wife Carol and three sons Kurt, Aaron, and Stuart.
The Dragons released a statement following the news of Raper’s passing.
“The St George Illawarra Dragons are deeply saddened by the passing of St George Dragons and rugby league immortal Johnny Raper,” the statement read.
“Raper passed away on Wednesday following a long battle with illness. He was 82.
Raper commenced his first-grade career at Newtown in 1957 before joining St George two years later amid their famed ‘Never Before, Never Again’ run of 11 consecutive premierships, of which he featured in the remaining eight grand final wins.
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