Rabs sends hearts racing with recent health scare
A FORMER boss of mine, renowned sports journalist Norm Tasker, wrote the biography of greatly admired cricket commentator, the late Alan McGilvray.
It was fittingly titled “McGilvray: The Game is not the Same”.
So when I heard at the weekend that another revered sports commentator, Ray Warren, had called last Friday night’s Dragons-Titans clash wearing a heart monitor, it gave me reason to consider what a book relating to the great man might be called.
Not that I’m pensioning off the 74-year-old, who has been calling rugby league for 50 years.
But, as fate would have it, McGilvray retired after 50 years at the microphone.
And let’s face it, the irregular heart palpitations Warren experienced during Origin III aren’t his first health issues of recent times.
Without wanting to paint a picture of an accident looking for somewhere to happen, prostate cancer, heart murmurs and high blood pressure can’t be ignored.
Anyone who has the pleasure of knowing Rabs, as he is affectionately called, classes him as a dead-set champion.
In my book, he has had no peer as a rugby league TV commentator in his half century as a caller. His knowledge of the game, and, in particular, the rules, is phenomenal.
But alarm bells started ringing for me at one of the early Broncos home games this year when I had a yarn with the great man, whom I have known for most of the 30-odd years I have been involved in covering rugby league. And during that conversation back in March, Rabs was not his old self.
Being the ultimate professional, he was torn between a rock and a hard place. While he still loves his job, he doesn’t want to keep calling when the viewers might think he might have lost his edge.
“I won’t make a goose of myself. I have asked those I respect to tell me if they think I have lost it,” he confided back then.
Rabs certainly hasn’t made a goose of himself. Far from it. But maybe this most recent health scare is a message from his maker that the end of his calling career is nigh.
And when that inevitable time does come, we will certainly be asking “Who will keep tabs without the great Rabs?”
Three names jump immediately to mind.
The first, and most obvious, is Warren’s current deputy at Channel 9, 34-year-old Mathew Thompson. Relatively inexperienced and not widely known, Thompson has improved greatly since calling at least one game a week in 2016.
But the two best callers behind Rabs are employed by Fox – Andrew Voss and Warren Smith. Don’t be surprised to see one of them switch camps in the not-too-distant future.