Stefan Ratchford is a big fan of Magic Weekend: and he’s got an extra reason to like one of rugby league’s most innovative concepts this weekend.
The Warrington fullback will feature prominently in arguably the biggest game of the entire weekend, as the Wolves take on Wigan in the closing contest of day one of the event.
For Wigan-born Ratchford, it is always a special occasion. But throw the stunning backdrop of St James’ Park and all the extra attention that comes with Magic Weekend into the mix, it is not hard to see why he regards this weekend as a standout moment of his year.
He told TotalRL: “Any Warrington-Wigan game, whether it’s at one of our stadiums or a neutral venue, are always great. The atmosphere is cracking and this week will be no different – there’ll be loads of extra fans thrown into the mix too, which I guess will make it even better. Whenever you play Wigan it’s an unbelievable occasion.”
But with St Helens playing in the game before his, Ratchford is keen to see how the Saints fans view a contest between two of their biggest rivals live in the flesh.
He said: “The whole concept is brilliant personally. Getting all the teams at one venue and the fans crammed in is something I always look forward to.
“It’s quite interesting that with all the fans in on the same day, which fans will go for which team during our game! The Saints fans are in a no-win situation really if they want to cheer for someone because it’s us or Wigan! For once, we might have quiet Saints fans! But the concept really works and bringing it somewhere like Newcastle is fantastic.”
Ratchford also shed some light on how the tide is slowly beginning to turn at Warrington. They were arguably the biggest surprise package at the start of the new season after finding themselves at the bottom of the table – but slowly, they have started to turn their form around.
And for the first time this season, they could climb out of the bottom four with a win on Saturday.
“Results-wise we’re heading where we need to be,” he explained.
“Obviously the start wasn’t anything like what we wanted to do after last season and we thought we could replicate 2016 but we’re slowly starting to climb the ladder and slowly starting to pick up. The good sign is that we’re not performing to our best and we’re still getting some wins.
“We’ve relaxed a bit. We just wanted to get back to the way we were playing last year and because we’re relaxed and we’re willing to try that pass we might not have been at the start of the season, it’s slowly starting to come together.”