CRUNCHING DEFECTION: Ray Warren announces shock code switch to rugby union

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    Legendary commentator Ray Warren will make a surprise switch to rugby union commentary, with the voice of Nine’s NRL coverage to call Wallabies and Super Rugby matches in 2017.

    ‘Rabbits’ has been behind the microphone for Channel Nine for almost three decades, having also spent many years at Network Ten calling rugby league, and has recently been the subject of retirement speculation from fans and media.

    He has scuppered any such plans, revealing to The Roar that he has been yearning to call the Wallabies for years, even going as far to tell us he is seeking a release from the rest of his duties in 2016.

    Warren said the chance to call Sevens rugby at the Rio 2016 Olympics with “true-blue passion in the fair dinkum department” is too good to pass up, with Channel Seven officials looking at an eleventh-hour deal that could also see Warren on Olympic swimming duty.

    Both Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett, Hackett and Thorpe, have secretly been in training for the Games in the event Warren announces his switch.

    EXCLUSIVE: THE ROAR HAS OBTAINED RAY WARREN’S AUDITION TAPES SENT TO FOXTEL. WATCH AND LISTEN IN THE PLAYER ABOVE

    The move has stunned Nine and NRL powerbrokers alike, with an extraordinary cooperative meeting called in an attempt to wrest back control of the Public Relations war.

    Former NRL CEO and Benji Barba fan Dave Smith, noted for his strong relationship with the sonorous raconteur and his key role the last contract negotiations with Warren’s manager, Khoder Nasser, has been called in as arbiter for the meeting.

    “Obviously there is speculation in the media, but between the bunker, Phil Gould saying ‘No’ a lot and buying Tony Archer’s hair product, we’re just flat out at HQ,” NRL Chosen One and Smith-replacer Todd Greenberg said in a confusing press conference.

    Super Rugby will be Rabs’ first taste of rugby calling, with him set to lend his resonant vocals to an Australian derby in Round 1 of next year’s tournament. Rumours are he will shadow current Foxtel caller Greg Clark, whose future is unclear at this stage, at the Foxtel offices after the NRL season finishes to complete his apprenticeship.

    The news has Channel Nine scrambling for a replacement for the commentary legend, with ubiquitous presence Tim Gilbert understood to have already thrown his hat in the ring alongside Ray Hadley and Matthew Thompson. None of the three are believed to be in contention, however, as Nine looks at left-field candidates like poaching newly-appointed AFL Footy Show co-host Rebecca Maddern or appointing Cowboys and Broncos great Scott Minto.

    “We’ve always had a feeling that Kool-Mint (Minto) would add a lot to Nine’s coverage, with his Darren Lockyer resemblance and languid stride,” said former Nine kingpin David Gyngell last year.

    “While Scott’s commentary is untested, if it’s anything like his footy it will be a hit with the fans.”

    Warren admitted there are things he will miss about the ‘Greatest game of all’.

    “Sterlo, The Big Marn, the litigation, calling things a disgrace – yeah, I’ll miss all that.

    “But Phil Gould… Well. Moving on.”

    Asked if he had any regrets about the decision to leave rugby League, Warren said:

    “Well back in Junee, when I was a kid…”

    At which point the microphone cut out.