Who is the new Channel Nine commentator replacing Ray Warren?

Set small text size

Set default text size

Set large text size

Mathew Thompson has said he’s “ready to rumble” ahead of State of Origin’s launch in 2022 after being named commentator in place of Channel 9 idol Ray Warren.

Thompson is the play-by-play caller for Nine after Warren announced his retirement, ending a commentary record streak of 99 consecutive origins.

The 40-year-old posted on Twitter that he was “ready to scold” and also paid tribute to Warren, describing him as “a wonderful man, mentor and colleague”.

“Rabs, you are the best there has been. I wouldn’t have pursued my dream of sports broadcasting without you. You have inspired many and entertained everyone.

Thompson served as Nine’s main commentator all season after Warren took time off amid concerns about continuing behind the microphone.

The 78-year-old NRL Hall of Fame inductee hasn’t called a game since Penrith beat South Sydney in last year’s Grand Final at Suncorp Stadium.

Thompson has built a reputation as a low-key caller alongside sports legends who also commentate for Nine like Andrew Johns, Billy Slater, Brad Fittler, Cameron Smith and Phil Gould.

He made headlines for all the wrong reasons in 2017 when he was in a car accident near a daycare center and witnesses claimed he fled the scene, which he denied at the time .

It will be the first time in 34 years that Warren has spent Wednesday night’s State of Origin talking to his television, rather than millions of fans.

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

Warren has called all 99 games since 1989, whether in combination with Darrell Eastlake during his early years or as the only play-by-play caller since.

Warren even surprised himself at how comfortable he’s become watching from the couch this year.

“I’m sitting here talking on TV,” Warren told AAP. “I’m going to sit here and say, ‘God who went a mile, come on.

“To say, ‘sir, he’s offside, please’. Or ‘why did you pass, you had a two-man overlap on the outside’. I’m like all the other spectators, sitting here alone talking to me now.

Set to turn 79 on Saturday, the veteran caller has long spoken of his desire not to go on too long and ruin his legacy. But still, there remains a tinge of sadness.

It’s not lost on Warren, he’s been commentating on the sport since he was seven, when he started rolling marbles down a hill and imitating race caller Ken Howard as his family bet on races.

“For 72 years I pretended to be a sportscaster, practiced to be a sportscaster or was a sportscaster,” Warren said. “In fact, it’s been my whole life.

Warren’s treasured memories of Origin are vast. Mark Coyne’s 1994 “miracle” essay remains his favorite moment, closely followed by Billy Slater’s 2004 effort.

Ray Warren.

Thanks to COVID-19, Warren ended her career calling from a studio, stuck in NSW for Origins and last year’s grand finale.

Even that presented the biggest challenges of his career, having always had the mantra that his appeal should go up and down with a crowd that was then non-existent.

“It was a scary ending,” Warren said. “I went through all three Queensland Origins last year. And then the grand final. And it was a complete stop. I thought ‘what else do I have to do’?”

Some would say 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 is no longer calling the AFL, Richie Benaud is missing out on cricket and now rugby league has lost its voice.

At times over the past week, Warren even had tears in his eyes, particularly when a radio host asked him if his parents would have been proud. “They had this kid at home rolling marbles down the slope trying to look like Ken Howard,” Warren said. “They probably used to go to bed thinking ‘there’s something wrong with this kid’.

“So at the end of the day they would be pretty happy with what we did.”

Back To Top