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The ‘voice’ of rugby league is off the pace

Kris Swales Columnist

By Kris Swales, Kris Swales is a Roar Expert

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Popular article! 5,177 reads

    It was somewhat ironic that on the day Australia collectively mourned the loss of the voice of summer, the voice of two states’ winters showed telltale signs that age was also catching up with him.

    Not as iconic as the great, irreplaceable Richie Benaud, nor as universally adored, Ray Warren’s dulcet tones have nonetheless soundtracked many of rugby league’s greatest moments.

    And by greatest moments, I of course refer primarily to the moment where most of Queensland had a hand in a try which seemed to work its way down from Cooktown, across the Tropic of Capricorn and Tweed River, veer west to Broken Hill then land itself in the north-east corner of the Sydney Football Stadium.

    Champagne rugby league, with a top-shelf whisky chaser provided by the man on the mic and his two irrepressible sidekicks.

    Things were well and truly bubbling in the Lang Park cauldron last Friday as well, and that’s before we talk about the foam gushing out of the gobs of rival props Sam Thaiday and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves as they impersonated two bison in a David Attenborough doco.

    The Broncos and Roosters went end-to-end for 80-and-a-bit minutes. Blokes were shanking field goals like the Steeden was made of flubber. Lachlan Maranta thought he was LeBron James. Ben Hunt eventually remembered that tries are permissible in extra time. Rugby league was the winner.

    It was frenetic stuff, and the man known as Rabs struggled to keep up.

    On at least three occasions he called last tackle when there was still one to go in the set, then carried on calling as if nothing was amiss while the elephant casually strolled around several-hundred thousand lounge rooms.

    By the end of play, his voice was nearly shot. On his regular Saturday morning slot on Triple M Radio, he was neck deep in throat lozenges to help get through the allotted three hours.

    These things are understandable. Being a play-by-play caller is no doubt a high-intensity gig. After the classic first Origin game of 2014, even Rabs himself admitted he didn’t know how many of those he had left in him.

    What isn’t understandable is what now seems a running joke between some members of the Nine commentary team – the mispronunciation of player names of Polynesian or Melanesian descent.

    This week it was boom Roosters rookie Sio Siua Taukeiaho’s turn to have his name minced up on national television.

    In previous weeks, Tigers young gun Ava Seumanufagai has had the comic “SEE-YOU-MA-NOO-FUN-GUY” treatment.

    On this and other occasions, grown men with microphones tittered like they’d just laid a zinger on the new kid at kindergarten, and acted like they didn’t know any better.

    Full disclosure: I cannot pronounce either of those names, nor Warriors rookies who are currently tearing it up in my fantasy football squad. But it is part of my job description to ensure both of the above, plus Solomone Kata and Tuimoala Lolohea, are correctly spelt before The Roar’s subs ensure this piece is otherwise readable.

    The NRL trumpeted the fact that in 2012 the official media guide distributed to all full-time broadcasters and scribes would come with ‘islander’ names spelt phonetically. The guide that year went a step further, with Danny Weidler pointing out that whoever from the Warriors thought Lewis Brown needed to be broken down into syllables was clearly ‘avin a laugh.

    This year, one made it as far as ABC Grandstand’s Perth studio…

    … so we can assume the home of rugby league’s post office box would’ve been overflowing with the things well before season kickoff.

    Which makes the continual mangling of admittedly tricky names, then making the mangling a discussion point – ‘deliberate idiocy’, as fellow Roarer Geoff Lemon referred to it in that takedown piece of Nine’s cricket commentary team in February. It is not only unforgiveable, but disrespectful to young men who have dedicated their lives up to this point to the goal of performing on the Friday Night Football stage.

    You’ve got one job, Rabs, and you can be bloody good at it. If you can no longer do it properly it might be time to hang up the microphone.

    Everyone has to eventually. Just ask John Farnham.

    State of Origin 2 is here, with the Blues looking to wrap the 2018 series up and the Maroons hoping to keep it alive and force a decider. Follow along with our NSW vs QLD Origin 2 live scores and blog.

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    The Crowd Says (142)

    • April 17th 2015 @ 5:42am
      Mike from Tari said | April 17th 2015 @ 5:42am | ! Report

      I reckon your point of view is bordering on racial vilification of Ray Warren, these names & their pronunciation & their phonetics are not part of the the English Language that some of these commentators grew up with, their tounges work in different ways, I know because I speak another language & bits & pieces of about 10 other pacific island languages. It is not Ray Warrens fault he has trouble with the Pacific Ilanders names & that includes NZ & PNG oh and by the way this has nothing to do with his age.

      • April 17th 2015 @ 6:02am
        Christo the Daddyo said | April 17th 2015 @ 6:02am | ! Report

        If it’s not age-related incompetance then it’s pure incompetance then.

        His job is to call the action as accurately as possible. If he can’t get the players’ names correct then he needs to go.

        But Ch 9 continue to employ a whole range of people who mangle their words, so I guess he’s safe.

        • April 17th 2015 @ 6:34am
          Niall said | April 17th 2015 @ 6:34am | ! Report

          Some of the ex-players employed by not just Nine but FOX and Triple M to talk about our game are incredibly hard to listen to. The reasons being either, they cannot articulate their thoughts properly or they are more interested in enganging in childish banter. There are only 3 or 4 across the board that I enjoy listening to.

        • April 17th 2015 @ 11:13pm
          GWS said | April 17th 2015 @ 11:13pm | ! Report

          Be careful. If Ray Warren goes you might end up permanently with Ray “the idiot short of a village” Hadley.

      • Roar Guru

        April 17th 2015 @ 8:18am
        Sleiman Azizi said | April 17th 2015 @ 8:18am | ! Report

        I disagree.

        I speak languages other than English and yes, pronunciation problems are real.

        But not if you are a paid, professional commentator.

        • April 17th 2015 @ 5:05pm
          Common Sense said | April 17th 2015 @ 5:05pm | ! Report

          Should we hold native Japanese speakers turned English commentators to the same standard when they try to pronounce the letter L, a sound which is not in the Japanese vocabulary?

          • Roar Guru

            April 18th 2015 @ 6:50am
            Sleiman Azizi said | April 18th 2015 @ 6:50am | ! Report


            Translation: They follow the rules of Japanese grammar and so that isn’t problem. In anycase, Pacific Island languages seem to have pronunciations that are not impossible for English.

            Just sayin…. 🙂

      • April 17th 2015 @ 9:24am
        HarryT said | April 17th 2015 @ 9:24am | ! Report

        I agree with the difficulty of pronouncing some of the names Mike.

        ‘Seumanufagai’ has, I think, seven syllables and it would be a difficult one for Warren to call during a frenetic passage of play

        Justin Marshall is pretty good, but still struggles despite getting similar names around his tongue most of his life.

        All those criticising Rabbs should sit in front of their TV for the next Warriors’ game, turn the sound down and then record their own commentary.

        • Roar Guru

          April 17th 2015 @ 12:09pm
          Sleiman Azizi said | April 17th 2015 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

          Sorry Harry, but while I accept the difficulty people face with pronunciation – and your amateur commentary challenge would certainly highlight it – I don’t accept it as an excuse for paid professionals.

          If one is a professional, one should act like one.

          And while they may be paid, the Channel Nine commentary team show no evidence of professionalism at all.

          • April 17th 2015 @ 1:14pm
            HarryT said | April 17th 2015 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

            Well, I hope Rabbs doesn’t have to say ‘Anzac’ in Maori for the upcoming Test.

            Anzac = Rā Maumahara ki nga hoia o Aotearoa me Ahitereiria.

        • Roar Guru

          April 17th 2015 @ 1:31pm
          The Barry said | April 17th 2015 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

          There’s nothing wrong with getting the name wrong but I agree that the carry on and giggling afterwards isn’t necessary.

          Save it for the 12th man.

          I never knew that people’s tongues worked in different ways…

          • April 17th 2015 @ 3:39pm
            Alex L said | April 17th 2015 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

            People largely learn how to make the sounds which are then used in words fairly early on in life.

            • Roar Guru

              April 17th 2015 @ 5:14pm
              The Barry said | April 17th 2015 @ 5:14pm | ! Report

              I’m pretty sure their tongues still work the same way…

              • Roar Guru

                April 17th 2015 @ 5:33pm
                Sleiman Azizi said | April 17th 2015 @ 5:33pm | ! Report

                It’s like trying to write with your left hand if you are right handed.

              • Roar Guru

                April 17th 2015 @ 6:34pm
                The Barry said | April 17th 2015 @ 6:34pm | ! Report

                But your hands don’t work in different ways…

              • April 17th 2015 @ 7:19pm
                Alex L said | April 17th 2015 @ 7:19pm | ! Report

                Yes and no, obviously different sounds require different actions made with the tongue.

                I believe reason Warren struggles with some pacific islander names (and I’d argue he does it less than people think) is because they have sounds in them that just don’t exist in European languages so he doesn’t necessarily know (in the sense of muscle memory) how to make them.

              • Roar Guru

                April 18th 2015 @ 7:10am
                The Barry said | April 18th 2015 @ 7:10am | ! Report

                But that doesn’t mean your tongue works in a different way…!?!?

                And what sounds do Pacific Islander names have that aren’t in the English language?

                The challenge is the names are long with many syllables not that they have different sounds.

                Anyway there’s no problem with mispronunciation, it’s the giggling and mocking afterwards that’s the embarrassment.

              • Roar Guru

                April 17th 2015 @ 8:31pm
                Sleiman Azizi said | April 17th 2015 @ 8:31pm | ! Report

                If you’ve never used the patterns, it will take a while for your body to adapt to them.

                There are squillions of nerves running through here and there and if your actions only require a certain pathway of nerves, then anything outside of those pathways may be a little difficult.

                But like any physical skill, it merely takes practice.

                ANd if Ray Warren really was a professional, he would be practicing all day until he got the names down enough not to mock them when he makes mistakes.

                But Channel Nine are bereft of professionals. Just highly paid entertainers (sic).

      • April 17th 2015 @ 1:45pm
        J Watson said | April 17th 2015 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

        Would love to hear how incompetance to complete ones job is borderline racial vilification?

        • Roar Guru

          April 17th 2015 @ 3:44pm
          Sleiman Azizi said | April 17th 2015 @ 3:44pm | ! Report

          I think the phrase was misused.

          But when you don’t make a proper professional effort to learn the names and then go on a teenager giggle parade afterward, you are treading redneck territory.

          And to think I thought we stopped that Greg Ritchie Mahatma Cote rubbish years ago.

          • April 18th 2015 @ 12:57am
   said | April 18th 2015 @ 12:57am | ! Report

            Agree wholeheartedly. Big Mike from Tari suggested Ray was being vilified. Nonsense.

      • April 17th 2015 @ 10:45pm
        Scuba said | April 17th 2015 @ 10:45pm | ! Report

        If you reckon the article is “borderline racial vilification” then I reckon you’re definitely a deadset flog

    • April 17th 2015 @ 7:46am
      Gazzatron said | April 17th 2015 @ 7:46am | ! Report

      I agree that Rabs has had his day and should exit stage left but not because of the mispronounced islander names. I grew up in South Auckland where the majority of my school were islanders or maoris and I know how tough some of their names are to pronounce but I’m pretty good at it and that’s because I grew up doing it. An old Aussie bloke is always going to have a tough time of it.
      The article should have concentrated on the fact he says Scott just took the hitup when in fact it was Hannant and the 50 other things he gets wrong these days.

      • April 17th 2015 @ 7:54am
        Mike from Tari said | April 17th 2015 @ 7:54am | ! Report

        You support my view on getting your tounge around a different language.

        • April 17th 2015 @ 8:02am
          Gus Paella said | April 17th 2015 @ 8:02am | ! Report

          Isn’t your view that if you pronounce an individual’s name incorrectly that is racial vilification?
          I hope I read that wrong to be honest.

          • Roar Guru

            April 17th 2015 @ 8:31am
            Sleiman Azizi said | April 17th 2015 @ 8:31am | ! Report

            It heads that way when commentators start making light of other language names because they can’t handle them.

      • Roar Rookie

        April 17th 2015 @ 11:48am
        Joe said | April 17th 2015 @ 11:48am | ! Report

        Agree with you there Gazz. Rabs is making a lot of mistakes nowadays that have nothing to do with pronunciation. It is time he exited gracefully stage left.

      • April 17th 2015 @ 2:15pm
        jared said | April 17th 2015 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

        Best one ever was in the storm v dogs final last year and Greg Eastwood made a break and he called him ‘inglis’.

      • April 17th 2015 @ 5:01pm
        Albo said | April 17th 2015 @ 5:01pm | ! Report

        I reckon all the TV footy callers have always abused their brief and made it hard for themselves along the way !
        Take the likes of Rabs and Hadley, they came from RADIO race calling ! They were obliged to deliver the accurate imagery of what was happening ( who was running where and who won & ran the trifecta) . They progressed this to RADIO football calling where again the accurate images needed to be related. But with TV coverage we can all see what is going on, we know the players, we don’t need to be screamed at to know that one boofhead belted another boofhead ! They really only need to be adding some bonus commentary to the coverage that we can all see happening in front of us. All this calling of every movement and every players name is not required and the fake decibel stretches are not required. Give me a Sterling, Alexander, Joey Johns ( guys who know what is happening ion the field and can understand the tactics) in a commentary team offering limited commentary but to enhance what we are seeing in front of us. Forget Rabs, Hadley & Vossy !
        Notice what was great about Richie Benaud’s commentary ? He said approximately three sentences of astute observation over a 6 hour coverage that we were watching ! If only we could now gag Slater !

    • April 17th 2015 @ 7:56am
      The eye said | April 17th 2015 @ 7:56am | ! Report

      Ray ought to have a coffee with Daryl Halligan,just has the accurately, coolest pronunciation of the Polynesian names

      • April 17th 2015 @ 11:48am
        scott said | April 17th 2015 @ 11:48am | ! Report

        Problim us, Derryl hes e thuck eccent end cen’t pronounce enythung else currictly.

        • Roar Guru

          April 17th 2015 @ 12:10pm
          Sleiman Azizi said | April 17th 2015 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

          lol, but at least he is enthusiastic!

          • April 18th 2015 @ 10:13am
            lmm040183 said | April 18th 2015 @ 10:13am | ! Report

            True that, the Warriors score a simple through the hands try and its BROOLLIANT!! MUGNIFICENT!!

    • April 17th 2015 @ 7:57am
      waterboy said | April 17th 2015 @ 7:57am | ! Report

      Spot on Gazza.

      He is getting more and more players wrong.

      Unfortunately Rex Mossop went exactly the same way towards the end

      • April 17th 2015 @ 10:42am
        AlanKC said | April 17th 2015 @ 10:42am | ! Report

        Thus garnering him the nickname “Rox Messup”.

        Sadly Ray doesn’t have the name to do justice to his decline and should gracefully exit satge left.

      • April 17th 2015 @ 1:42pm
        HarryT said | April 17th 2015 @ 1:42pm | ! Report

        Rex was like that in his prime, wb.

        • April 18th 2015 @ 4:32pm
          Birdy said | April 18th 2015 @ 4:32pm | ! Report

          Ahhh poor Rex. He was good for the day. Rex is where it all started,

    • April 17th 2015 @ 7:58am
      Johnnyball said | April 17th 2015 @ 7:58am | ! Report

      Warren does have problems but they are hugely exacerbated by Gould constantly veering of on some tangent where mainly he is taking the piss out of Rabbits or distracting him about interpretations of the rules.
      Warren, without trying to be insulting, is a one trick pony and cannot cope nor operate on multiple levels.
      In my area, most think Gould and Warren are poor in their presentation and should go.
      Vossie should never have been allowed to go and especially over something as silly as the statue comment. Maybe Beau Ryan could be an alternative caller? Can talk alright and present, with a bit of training might come up alright.
      On the mispronunciation problem, when does Widdop become WID-DOP. Aggravating!

      • Roar Rookie

        April 17th 2015 @ 10:14am
        Alexandria Kellett said | April 17th 2015 @ 10:14am | ! Report

        Beau Ryan? I don’t think that airhead needs more air-time.

      • April 17th 2015 @ 10:52am
        Oscar said | April 17th 2015 @ 10:52am | ! Report

        I agree with you on Vossie, he is easily my favourite of the NRL commentators. He takes a light hearted approach and just has fun with it, makes some great comments.
        Another issue I have with Rabs and Gus is they seem to be getting overly dramatic with their calling, some of the things they say is just absolute w**ky Bulls**t. I feel like this is a directive from higher up because the build up to the big games such as finals and SOO is also getting unbearable.

    • Roar Guru

      April 17th 2015 @ 8:06am
      Jackson Henry said | April 17th 2015 @ 8:06am | ! Report

      I want Rabs to stay…because you know who wants his job when he leaves?

      Ray Hadley. The Man With No Mates.

      I’ll start watching bloody soccer or something if that happens.

      • April 17th 2015 @ 8:14am
        Gazzatron said | April 17th 2015 @ 8:14am | ! Report

        That would be absolute torture if Hadley got the gig. I don’t mind his radio show for the entertainment value but when he’s calling the Broncos games he sounds like he’s calling a horse race.

        • April 17th 2015 @ 8:33am
          Niall said | April 17th 2015 @ 8:33am | ! Report

          I’ve never been a fan of him as a commentator.
          I used to listen to his weekend show, like you for entertainment value, not anymore though. I remember him absolutely tearing in to Brian Smith either last season or the season before, tried to completely discredit him as a coach and as a human being. I decided I’d never listen to that show again after that.

          • Roar Guru

            April 17th 2015 @ 8:45am
            Sleiman Azizi said | April 17th 2015 @ 8:45am | ! Report

            Ray Hadley is a verbal bully.

            But that tends to get airplay because I suppose it sounds authoratative.

            A pox on rubbish opinions and their originators.

            • April 17th 2015 @ 8:47am
              Niall said | April 17th 2015 @ 8:47am | ! Report

              One word for Ray Hadley, Narcissist.

            • April 17th 2015 @ 9:08am
              HarryT said | April 17th 2015 @ 9:08am | ! Report

              Hadley is actually very smart and brilliant at what he does on the radio. His income and ratings testify to this.

              But what he can’t do well is call a football match for TV. Unlike with Rabbs I have never come across anyone who has a positive word for Hadley’s calling of a game.

              • Roar Guru

                April 17th 2015 @ 11:37am
                Kaks said | April 17th 2015 @ 11:37am | ! Report

                “Hadley is actually very smart and brilliant at what he does on the radio” – Bully people?

                i honestly have no idea how he has such high ratings for being a grade A arsehole

              • Roar Guru

                April 17th 2015 @ 12:58pm
                Jackson Henry said | April 17th 2015 @ 12:58pm | ! Report

                Exactly right.

                A documented history on public record of bullying his colleagues, bullying his junior subordinates, bullying his family and bullying basically anyone he’s threatened by…and that is a long list – with Andrew Voss at the top of it.

                The atmosphere in the commentary box is almost embarrassing…the other callers are obviously worried about offending him…the forced laughter at Hadleys ridiculous attempts at self deprecation…as I say, just embarrassing.

                Fans deserve better. But since when has Channel Nine ever cared about fans.

              • Roar Guru

                April 17th 2015 @ 1:33pm
                Kaks said | April 17th 2015 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

                @Jackson, Hadley lives close to me. You can add Bullies his neighbours to that list as well.

              • Roar Guru

                April 17th 2015 @ 2:36pm
                Jackson Henry said | April 17th 2015 @ 2:36pm | ! Report

                Is that right.

                Obviously the curiosity is killing me, but obviously also appreciate this is a public forum.

                I actually think the “voice” of Rugby league shouldnt bring the game of Rugby league into disrepute with “off field behaviour”.

                If it’s good enough for those who play the game, then it’s equally good enough for those who present the game…and who themselves often pass judgement on player behaviour through their quite sizable microphones.

              • April 17th 2015 @ 1:34pm
                HarryT said | April 17th 2015 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

                Don’t get me wrong. He appals me and I don’t listen to him. Many people do though, he has won his ratings unchallenged for ten years and is the second highest paid radio announcer in Australia. And there is a very shrewd intellect there also.

                I understand the ‘bully’ tag, yet he promotes some very unfashionable causes and raises millions a year for charities.

              • Roar Guru

                April 17th 2015 @ 2:45pm
                Jackson Henry said | April 17th 2015 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

                One of my problems is that, if you love Rugby league and you don’t have foxtel, you just can’t escape him.

                He’s on radio…and everyone’s too scared to criticise him. He’s in the Faily Telegraph…and everyone’s too scared to criticise him. He’s on 33% of weekly coverage…and everyone’s too scared to criticise him. From what I hear, he’s also a semi regular on The Footy Show…and everyone’s too scared to criticise him.

                FFS, we know what your opinions are, just give us a break. This bloke couldn’t tie Andrew Voss’s shoelaces, he is just rubbish. And no one influential seems to want to tell him that.

                Plus, why is his microphone louder than everyone else’s on Channel Nine?

              • Roar Guru

                April 17th 2015 @ 2:52pm
                Sleiman Azizi said | April 17th 2015 @ 2:52pm | ! Report

                Because Channel Nine are useless.

              • April 17th 2015 @ 9:46pm
                DB said | April 17th 2015 @ 9:46pm | ! Report

                Smart and brilliant. A funny statement by an obviously misguided individual with low expectations of people.

              • Roar Guru

                April 17th 2015 @ 11:27pm
                Jackson Henry said | April 17th 2015 @ 11:27pm | ! Report

                Sorry DB, who was that one for? I don’t follow.

              • April 18th 2015 @ 8:01am
                db said | April 18th 2015 @ 8:01am | ! Report

                Jackson Henry, my comment was directed at the person who thinks Hadley is smart and brilliant. I find the comment amusing because Hadley is an utter moron.

              • Roar Guru

                April 17th 2015 @ 10:09pm
                Kaks said | April 17th 2015 @ 10:09pm | ! Report

                Jackson, you will eventually hear stories of him with the way he is going about so dont worry too much.

                Harry – “yet he promotes some very unfashionable causes and raises millions a year for charities”…that does not give him the right to be the bully he is.

              • Roar Guru

                April 17th 2015 @ 11:28pm
                Jackson Henry said | April 17th 2015 @ 11:28pm | ! Report

                And I thought the curiosity was killing me before…

      • April 17th 2015 @ 6:34pm
        MJB said | April 17th 2015 @ 6:34pm | ! Report

        Ew. I don’t think I could ever watch a full game commentated by Hadley. It takes me about a whole hour to unclench my teeth just accidentally hearing him on the radio.

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