Waring's commentaries on rugby league divided opinion: for some viewers he was "Uncle Eddie," the warm and friendly voice of the north, but others believed that his voice simply confirmed and promoted stereotypes.
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Waring was never a noted rugby league player; he was actually more proficient at football, once having had trials with Nottingham Forest and Barnsley. He began work as a typewriter salesman in his home town of Dewsbury, but he swapped that career to use them instead, joining a local newspaper and reporting on rugby league matches.
Alongside his fledging journalism career he ran the local Dewsbury Boys Rugby League Club, renaming them the Black Knights (this foreshadowed how Super League clubs were branded some 60 years later). During the Second World War Waring managed Dewsbury RLFC as he was exempted from armed service with an ear condition. Recruiting men from a nearby military camp, he led the club to its second Challenge Cup victory in 1943 - the club's last ever success in the competition.
Waring travelled on HMS Indomitable with the Great Britain national rugby league team on the first post-war tour of Australia. Returning home via the United States, he met Bob Hope, who alerted him to the success of televised sport. This is believed to have convinced him that television would be crucial for rugby league's long-term success. In the UK, he pushed this case harder with the BBC, having written to them as far back as 1931. After several rejections, he was given a chance as a broadcaster when the BBC began to cover the sport.
Waring's commentary polarised opinion over the next decades. For some viewers he would be "Uncle Eddie," the warm and friendly voice of the north, but others believed that his voice simply reinforced stereotypes.
During the 1960s, his eccentric mode of speech (rugby league was pronounced / /), Hull Kingston Rovers as "Hulking Stan Rovers" and northern accent began to be widely impersonated, largely due to the example of Mike Yarwood. Students formed the Eddie Waring Society in his honour.
One of his most notable commentaries came in the 1968 Challenge Cup Final at Wembley, a rain-affected game in which he described Wakefield Trinity player Don Fox with the line "'eeh, the poor lad!" after he missed a last minute kick from in front of the posts against Leeds - the miss handed the cup to his opponents.
Many of his lines became catchphrases in the game, including, "It's an up and under" (a rugby tactic consisting of kicking the ball in a high arc, while the rest of the team rushes toward the landing point, hoping to gain possession and field position) and "He's goin' for an early bath" (frequently heard during a game when a player was sent off the field for a serious foul). The Times in March 2006 published a list of 25 favourite sporting quotes and one of Waring's appeared there.
Waring branched out, appearing as a presenter on the television series It's a Knockout, and as the UK's representative on the international umpiring team for the European version of the show, Jeux Sans Frontieres, where his striped blazer made him easy to spot.
Decline and retirement
The split in opinion regarding his contribution to the game, plus illness, led to a decline in Waring's popularity. A petition was organised by some hardcore supporters asking the BBC to remove him from commentary as he was perceived to be portraying a poor image of the game and its northern roots. The BBC however stuck with him as their main commentator, though in the late 1970s they would also bring in former Great Britain halfback Alex Murphy to work alongside of Waring.
It was illness that would affect him over the next few years and in some of his later commentaries it was clearly noticeable that he was beginning to struggle to identify players. He commentated on his last Challenge Cup Final in 1981. After his retirement, former dual rugby international Ray French became the BBC's chief rugby league commentator.
- Dave Russell. Looking North: northern England and the national imagination, Manchester University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-7190-5178-9, ISBN 978-0-7190-5178-4. p. 260
- 1911 Census
- Discovering the real Eddie Waring the independent
- Eric Partridge, Tom Dalzell, Terry Victor.The concise new Partridge dictionary of slang and unconventional, Routledge, 2007, ISBN 0-415-21259-6, ISBN 978-0-415-21259-5 p. 677
- Rugby league's TV 'visionary' Eddie Waring remembered bbc.co.uk
- Eddie Waring on Rugby League by Eddie Waring (ISBN 0584103581)
- Rugby League: The Great Ones by Eddie Waring (ISBN 072070300X)
- Waring, Eddie (1981). Eddie Waring on Rugby League. F. Muller. ISBN 9780584103588.
- Hannan, Tony. Being Eddie Waring: The Life and Times of a Sporting Icon. ISBN 1845963008.