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Watching rugby league – and especially State of Origin – will never be the same now Ray Warren has ended his matchless career.

For New Zealanders whose love of the game dates back 50 years plus, the names Frank Hyde, Rex Mossop, Darrell Eastlake and Graeme Hughes have been part of the ride, all evoking special memories of their distinctive styles and personalities.

Warren, though, was on another level, not least through his longevity but above all for his magical voice, commentary style, timing and tempo.

Known as Rabs, he has been part of the furniture for so long that it’s difficult to accept watching the big matches without his voice being there to give them a real sense of occasion.

At 78, he has stepped away from the microphone after calling 99 Origin matches, a Bradman-like statistical exclamation mark to his career. Then tack on a phenomenal 45 grand finals plus countless Test matches and who knows how many first-grade games. A boffin is doubtless doing the research now; it’ll take a long time.

So many of his commentary lines are already the stuff of legend, none more so than – “That’s not a try – that’s a miracle!” – when he called the remarkable match-winning try finished by Mark Coyne in Queensland’s game one win over New South Wales in 1994.

Warren was also there in bars and living rooms for the Vodafone Warriors’ 2002 and 2011 grand final appearances, their big finals wins (like the unforgettable victory over the Storm in 2008) and the Kiwis’ 2008 Rugby League World Cup and 2010 Four Nations finals successes at Suncorp Stadium. His voice is there all over Stacey Jones’ wonderful try in the 2002 grand final and calling it as it was when the Kiwis stunned Australia in 2008 and 2010.

While it’s a truism that all things must pass it won’t make it any easier when the 2022 Origin series kicks off next Wednesday night. Time to raise a glass to Warren and be thankful for the part he has played in making rugby league the greatest game of all.

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The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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