'Thought that was it': Ray Warren's stunning retirement backflip

Veteran caller Ray Warren is pictured here sitting in an NRL commentary box.
Ray Warren is set to dust off the binoculars again for season 2021. Pic: Getty

The voice of rugby league in Australia is set to be heard on screens around the country for at least one more season, following confirmation Ray Warren will not be hanging up the microphone just yet.

The veteran caller indicated that 2020 would his final season commentating on the NRL, after he was forced to call State of Origin III at Suncorp Stadium off a TV screen from the Channel Nine studio in Sydney.

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Warren called Games I and II in the series but admitted after the 2020 grand final that he was seriously considering retirement.

“I’m going to sit back, relax and enjoy Christmas and January and then make a decision,” he said at the time.

“It might have been my last grand final the other week, I honestly don’t know.

“If I’d announced before the game I wouldn’t have got through it. I get very emotional when I think about it.

“It’s hard to imagine what it would be like without broadcasting sport. It’s been five-and-a-half decades. I’ve never really treated it as a job. It’s more like a toy or a novelty. I’ve been really fortunate.”

Despite Warren's sentiments at the end of last season, Channel Nine have confirmed to the Sydney Morning Herald that the 77-year-old will once again be back in the hotseat for the upcoming season, which gets underway on March 11.

Warren met with Channel Nine bosses on Monday, with the 77-year-old admitting that he would have found it hard to bow out of the sport, given the circumstances of 2020.

The Queensland government’s spat with Channel Nine over quarantine exemptions for the Origin decider meant Warren ending up staying in Sydney, where he commentated on Game III from Nine’s Willoughby studio.

The NRL icon said calling the Origin decider off a TV screen in Sydney is not how he wanted his distinguished career behind the microphone to end.

Ray Warren is seen here on the sidelines at an NRL match.
Ray Warren previously indicated that 2020 may have been his last calling the NRL. Pic: Getty

Warren was ‘ready to pull the pin’

"When I walked away after that Origin, I thought that was it," Warren told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"Then I thought, 'Hang on, I'd done something I'd never do before: calling off the tube. I'd never contemplated not being at the event, in times gone by, but that was the reality of calling last year. I was ready to pull the pin on everything last year but when I thought about it that wasn't the type of season I'd like to go out on."

Warren's commentary partner-in-crime Phil Gould explained at the time the reasons behind his colleague's disappointment at calling last year's Origin decider off a TV screen.

“He’s not keen to do it off the tube,” Gould told listeners on his podcast Six Tackles with Gus.

“When you know Ray as well as we do, these little things can sort of set him off a bit.

“He relies a hell of a lot on the atmosphere at the ground for the tone. The crowd tells him when to get excited.”

Gould admitted there is a huge advantage of being at the ground and seeing thing viewers can’t during the game.

“So he’s never been keen to call a game off the screen in the studio for fear of the lack of atmosphere and not knowing when to get excited in the call,” he added.

“There is a huge advantage in being at the ground... you see more than the people at home are seeing on TV.”

Nine have decreased Warren's workload over the years, with the notoriously nervous flyer being reserved for the biggest games, such as Origins, Tests and finals matches.

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