Ray Warren comfortable on couch for Origin

·3-min read

For the first time in 34 years, Ray Warren will spend Wednesday night's State of Origin talking at his television, rather than through millions of others.

For almost every rugby league fan, the game's showpiece will have an undeniably different soundtrack.

Warren has called all 99 games since 1989, be it in combination with Darrell Eastlake for his first few years or as the sole play-by-play caller ever since.

Matthew Thompson will take over Nine's exclusively live coverage from 7pm, having assumed the reins for the majority of this season already, before Warren confirmed his retirement last week.

But for no-one will Origin night seem more different for than Warren, who has even surprised himself at how comfortable he has become watching from the couch this year.

"I sit there talking to the television," Warren told AAP.

"I will sit here and say: 'God that has gone forward by a mile, c'mon'.

"Saying, 'sir he's offside, please'. Or 'why did you pass, you had a two-man overlap on the outside'.

"I'm just like every other viewer, sitting here on my own talking to myself now."

Warren has, however, felt the pressure lift off his shoulders in 2022.

Set to turn 79 on Saturday, the veteran caller has long spoken about his desire not to go on too long and ruin his legacy.

But still, there remains a tinge of sadness.

It is not lost on Warren he has been commentating on sport since age seven, when he began rolling marbles down a hill and imitating race caller Ken Howard as his family bet on races.

"For 72 years I have either pretended to be a sports commentator, practised to be a sports commentator or been a sports commentator," Warren said.

"It has actually been all my life."

Warren's treasured Origin memories are vast.

The Mark Coyne 'miracle' try in 1994 remains his favourite moment, with Billy Slater's 2004 effort a close second.

Thanks to COVID-19 Warren finished his career calling from a studio, stuck in NSW for last year's Origins and grand final.

Even that presented the biggest challenges of his career, having always had the mantra his call should rise and fall with a crowd that was then non-existent.

"That was a scary ending," Warren said.

"I got through all three Origins in Queensland last year. And then the grand final.

"And that was a full stop. I thought 'what else is there for me to do'?"

Some would argue Origin No.100 would have been a fair goal. But for the man affectionately known as Rabs there was no temptation.

Warren's retirement marks the end of an era in Australian sports broadcasting.

Bruce McAvaney no longer calls the AFL, Richie Benaud is missed in cricket, and now rugby league has lost its voice.

At times in the past week, Warren has even become teary in reflection, particularly when asked by one radio host if his parents would have been proud.

"They had this kid at home rolling marbles down the slope trying to sound like Ken Howard," Warren said.

"They probably used to go to bed thinking 'there is something wrong with this kid'.

"So at the end of the day they would be pretty happy with what we've done."

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