With the Magic Weekend about to get under way, GARETH WALKER of League Express gives his reaction to last week’s inaugural Summer Bash.
THE RFL has confirmed that the Summer Bash will go ahead again next year following a successful inaugural event in Blackpool.
Over 15,000 supporters – well above the average for a typical round of Championship fixtures – attended the two-day event, and the feedback from those who were there was almost universally positive.
For those that didn’t, there was the welcome return of Rugby League at this level to live television, with Sky Sports screening all six league matches.
Some picked up on that fact that they didn’t show what was, by all accounts, a superb iPro Sport Cup final that kicked off proceedings, with North Wales Crusaders edging out Swinton Lions.
Perhaps that could be looked into next year, but the screening of six Championship matches back-to-back should be seen as a major positive.
The event wasn’t to everybody’s taste, however. Bradford coach James Lowes provided some strong criticism of the Summer Bash before the event, and his quotes after it hardly masked his disdain for it.
Lowes argued that taking matches on the road isn’t attracting new supporters, and the money involved could be better invested elsewhere.
But was the purpose of the Summer Bash to attract new fans, or to give existing ones a stand-alone Championship event that provides a big day out?
For primarily part-time players as well, the chance to play on a neutral venue in front of significantly more fans than usual, on live television, should not be underestimated.
Players, coaches and supporters at this level have long been calling out for big events to take part in outside of Grand Finals – and the Summer Bash has provided them with just that.
On the field, as is generally the case at this level, the action lived up to expectations. Among the star men on day one were Crusaders’ Jamie Dallimore, Workington’s Jarrad Stack in their comeback win over rivals Whitehaven, London Broncos’ young star Oscar Thomas and Bradford stand-off Lee Gaskell, arguably the most impressive player over the two days.
On the Sunday, Dewsbury loose forward Luke Adamson typified the Rams’ gritty win over Batley just five days after a tough match with Sheffield, before Andy Kain steered Hunslet to a crucial win over Doncaster.
The final match between Leigh and Featherstone was a largely forgettable affair, with Gregg McNally’s hat-trick a highlight among the constantly niggling. Still, it couldn’t detract from what overall was a terrific weekend for the sport at this level.
It would be good to see it continue and grow in coming years.
GARETH WALKER writes about Championship Rugby League every Monday in League Express, which is available in the shops and, from Sunday night at 10.00pm, by taking out a digital subscription. Click on the League Express icon below.