Tommy Raudonikis was the ultimate personification of a bygone rugby league era, but his blood continues to beat through the heart of the sport today.
Raudonikis' death at age 70 from cancer on Wednesday saddened the sport, with Wayne Bennett declaring "they don't make them like Tommy anymore".
Known for his "cattle dog" catchcry that brought passion back to State of Origin during the Super League war, Raudonikis was rugby league's greatest character.
So much so that Bennett on Wednesday joked that heaven wouldn't be ready for him to take the No.7 jersey.
"I don't know if they'll be ready for Tommy (in heaven), but they'll have to handle him," Bennett joked.
Word of Raudonikis' ill health had spread around rugby league circles earlier this week, with Bennett among those to tell a tale of his career over a beer this week.
The pair had their first tours together for Australia in 1971, with Bennett a 21-year-old policeman and Raudonikis already one of the game's great characters.
But on the field Bennett saw the passion of NSW's maiden State of Origin captain firsthand.
He described him as "as tough as they come", with his style as a halfback in the 1970s still having influences over the game in 2021.
"He was a remarkable guy and everyone who played with him loved him," Bennett said.
"Because he was what the game was about. He put his body on the line and didn't let anyone down."
Bennett also coached against him in 1998, and this week told the story of the Queensland team following NSW from nightclub to nightclub after Raudonikis had told his players not to socialise with the Maroons.
"It sent him around the twist," Bennett said.
For a proud NSW man, Raudonikis had several links to Queensland.
He coached in the state after his playing days, and brought Alfie Langer and Brisbane's current coach Kevin Walters through the grades.
"He had a big influence on my career early as a player," Walters said on Wednesday.
"One of my fondest memories was the day he knocked on my door and asked myself and (brother) Kerrod to come and play for the Ipswich Jets.
"He was one of, or was my favourite player, growing up."
So much so, that Walters challenged Queensland's marquee NRL team to play with the spirit of the NSW great.
"If this Broncos team can get the attitude that Tommy did we'll be winning a lot more games," Walters said.
More recently Raudonikis handed Nathan Cleary his debut NSW jersey in 2018, with the halfback now determined to play Origin with his predecessor on his mind.
"That's something that I can definitely keep close to my heart now," Cleary said.
"He just said to play tough and to go out there and do your thing.
"The biggest thing for him is he likes players who are tough so it's something I'll always keep in mind. I'll try and make him proud."
Former Penrith captain and fellow Cowra hero Royce Simmons said he always admired Raudonikis for not just his skill and consistency as a player, but his personality.
"He made you laugh. If you sat down with him ... you walked away feeling better," Simmons said.
"As my old dad used to say, 'anyone who makes you laugh should never die.'
"That's Tommy, I reckon."
Australian Associated Press