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News Dragons legend and Immortal John Raper fighting dementia

Discussion in 'Rugby League General' started by chisdog, Jan 26, 2018.

  1. chisdog

    chisdog Kennel Enthusiast

    Jun 25, 2010
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    Sydney Morning Herald

    Andrew Webster

    [​IMG]© AAP Image Former rugby league player Johnny Raper.

    When rugby league's four Immortals were announced in 1981, a special presentation was held at the SCG.
    Clive Churchill, John Raper, Reg Gasnier and Bob Fulton were each given a boxed set of vintage port especially created in their honour.

    Standing in the middle of the ground where much of their greatness was established, Raper downed his first glass in one gulp.

    "Got any more of that?" he asked.

    Everyone laughed. Raper was always the life of his party.

    According to those who know him well – and you can count them in the millions – Raper has lived his life like it was never going to end. The way life should be lived.

    © Ern McQuillan John Raper, pictured in 1958.

    But now it has emerged the legendary St George lock is fighting dementia and has been in permanent care for the past three or four months in a nursing home in Caringbah.

    When Dragons teammate and the fifth Immortal Graeme Langlands died in a Sutherland nursing home last weekend, after his own battle with dementia, the thoughts of many former teammates turned to Raper, who won eight grand finals in his side's unprecedented run of 11 premierships in the 1950s and 60s.

    The Raper family politely declined to comment when I called them this week, and understandably so at a tough time.

    His wife, Carol, regularly visits alongside Raper's former teammate, Johnny Riley.

    "No, it's not the Johnny Raper as we'd like to remember him," Riley said.

    Former St George wingers Johnny King and Eddie Lumsden have also visited. Raper is in the same home as Dragons halfback Billy Smith, who has been slowed down after the stroke he suffered in 2010 but is still relatively sharp.

    "It's hard to not get emotional when you see two of your best mates and they don't know who you are," King said of Langlands and Raper. "I know time catches up with all of us, but when you played alongside them, these great footballers and personalities, you thought they'd live forever."

    We all did.

    © Alan E Funnell St George stars Reg Gasnier and Johnny Raper in 1961. Window dressing

    My favourite story about Langlands actually says more about Smith, but let's tell it anyway. Smith told it to me many years ago.

    In 1973, Langlands was the last captain-coach of a touring Australian side of Great Britain.

    One morning, Langlands made the players do a road run before returning to their team hotel in the north of England. Smith had a leg injury and didn't want to do it, but Langlands made him do it anyway.

    Smith was so slow that when he got back the players and officials were having breakfast in the dining room. Langlands was eating his bacon and eggs right in front of the window.

    "So I picked up half a house brick which I found in the gutter, and threw it through the window," Smith recalled. "It landed in Chang's bacon and eggs."

  2. dogluva

    dogluva Immortal

    Nov 23, 2007
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    So sad to see another of the greats struck down with this terrible affliction. I know we like to think of the players theses days being tough but those of the ilk of Raper, Langlands were tough as nails and had less protocols in place to protect them from concussions etc. It will be no great surprise to see an increase in these incidents. I know that as you age the chances of suffering from dementia and Alzheimer becomes more prevalent but it is interesting to see the possible link between contact sports and these type of brain disorders especially with those retired many years.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. CroydonDog

    CroydonDog Immortal Gilded

    Aug 1, 2012
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    I think the NFL is doing a lot of work in this area (or at least researchers are investigating former players) looking at concussion and its links to dementia, depression and other mental issues.

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