On Tuesday 26 June, John Peard, Southern Sydney Committee member Maurie Raper and Wellbeing Officer John Harris had the great pleasure of visiting Maurie’s brother, Rugby League Immortal John Raper MBE and St George legend Billy Smith at the aged care where they both live.
John Raper’s illustrious career included two seasons with Newtown (1957-1958) and then 11 seasons with St George (1959-1969) including 8 premierships. He ended his career with 3 seasons in the Newcastle competition. John represented New South Wales 24 times (1959-1970) and Australia 39 times (1959-1968).
He was awarded the Harry Sunderland Medal for player of the 1964 Ashes series and was elected into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame and ARL Hall of Fame. He was selected as a Rugby League Immortal in 1985. He also coached St.George, the Sharks and Newtown.
Billy Smith’s career at St George consisted of 296 games including 234 1st grade games (1961-1977). He represented New South Wales 17 times (1964-1973) and Australia 26 times (1964-1970). He was awarded the Harry Sunderland Medal in 1966 and 1967.
Regardless of his health issues, John listened intently and thoroughly enjoyed the banter between Billy and John Peard.
The men were joined by John’s wife Caryl and her calming influence on John was immediately obvious. Caryl said John and Billy recently enjoyed a visit from Immortal Bob Fulton and Souths legend Bob McCarthy.
Billy was in good spirits and participated in the discussions about the modern game and had a keen interest in the current State of Origin series. He still regularly attends Dragons games at Jubilee Oval.
He had a strong opinion on the selection of the next Immortal and unsurprisingly nominated St George great Norm Provan.
They wished John and Billy well for the future and said their goodbyes.