Ray Warren won’t be commentating State of Origin anymore but Channel 9 ensured he got a proper send off with a touching tribute.
Last week, the voice of rugby league for 55 years Ray Warren officially retired — and that fact has finally sunk in as the 2022 State of Origin series has arrived.
While he had been less and less active on Channel 9 broadcasts in recent years, Warren also pulled something special out for Origin and already the rugby league world appears to be missing him.
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Alongside a tweet earlier in the day from Channel 9 pundit Phil Gould that he wouldn’t perform his famous “Final Word” gee up before kick-off, it’s been a tough day for footy fans.
“It will be a cracking game. Don’t miss it,” he tweeted.
Mathew Thompson will commentate his first State of Origin match in place of Warren but the network didn’t allow Warren to disappear without a send off.
In an emotional package broadcast on Channel 9 before the start of the first game of the series, Warren farewelled football.
“Can I just say that I want to thank you for allowing me just a little bit of time in your loungeroom, in your kitchen, wherever you watch your TV, thank you for inviting me into your homes,” he said.
“Or put it this way, if we do come back, I just want to come back and do exactly what I‘ve done for the last 55 years.”
His former co-workers also paid tribute.
James Bracey said: “Boy, oh, boy, we love you, Rabs. It must feel very happy. As was said earlier, don‘t be sad it is over, be happy you lived it.”
Paul Vautin, who spent decades alongside Warren in the commentary booth, also paid tribute to what a great all-round sports commentator he was.
“To sit next to him for 30 years, it was a blessing, it was really a blessing,” Vautin said. “Apart from that, it was fun.
“We had a ball, myself and Pete Sterling, and Rabs, we just laughed for a long, long time, every Friday night, every Sunday afternoon. It was golden spending time with each other.
“But as a player, he called when I played. You wanted to hear him call your name. That piece, that’s fantastic. You see how humble he is. The best person I know. Rabs, thank you.”
The reaction was swift, as fans flocked to social media.
The Kyle and Jackie O Twitter account posted: Feeling a bit emotional after watching that beautiful piece on Ray Warren. Kyle, me and many others can try our best to impersonate him, but there will only ever be one Rabs. Origin won’t sound the same without him.”