IN 1994, DURING THE making of Never Before, Never Again, Larry Writer asked Johnny Raper why he’d been a special player. In part, this was Raper’s response …
‘I put more importance on being a good team man than on being an individual star. I was an intense competitor who would tackle all day and knew where to be in cover defence. I wasn’t too fast but could make a break and put a man into a gap. I had stamina and energy and hated to be beaten. I could play through pain and knew how to read the game.
‘Being a Saint helped, too. We were one big happy family. I’ve never heard of any other club enjoying the harmony we did. Loyalty to each other and tradition made St George great. The football club, the leagues club, the players and wives, the administrators and the supporters — all were essential elements. Without any one of them, our great era could never have happened. All the elements blended together to make a wonderful club that’s still wonderful today. The name “St George” will always be there at the pinnacle of Australian sport; as important as Dally Messenger, Dawn Fraser and Phar Lap. In my work I travel to out-of-the-way places in the NSW and Queensland bush and the majority of people in these places are St George supporters, and they’ve remained loyal since my day. They followed us then mainly because we were winning, but also because we travelled to the bush on our end-of-season trips. The fathers who followed me passed their allegiance on to their sons ...’