Talking Rugby League: Was Magic Weekend a success, and should we keep it?

Was the Magic Weekend a successful event?

I ask, because if it was, there is no reason to abandon it.

If it wasn’t, then presumably we wouldn’t miss it.

One of the great things about the weekend in Newcastle, apart from all the usual bonhomie among the supporters of the twelve clubs taking part, is that we were blessed with superb summer weather, which showed off the game to its best advantage, with some stunning tries that should be capable of being used to illustrate what a wonderful game Rugby League is, particularly for broadcasters.

Three games were tightly contested, while the other three were much more one-sided.

There was a high degree of glorious uncertainty about the weekend.

In the Rugby League media tipping competition, I only managed to tip three winners, with Wigan, Leeds and Warrington letting me down.

But good on Catalans, Castleford and Hull FC for upsetting the favourites in each case.

Rhodri Jones, the Managing Director of RL Commercial, called a press conference on Sunday morning and I had expected him to announce that the Magic Weekend would be back on in twelve months’ time. But as you’ll see on page 3 of this issue of League Express, that isn’t what he said.

Instead he has left the concept hanging in the air, which is disappointing.

If it were going to continue next year, then now is the time, while this year’s event is fresh in everyone’s memory, for a massive promotional push to sell tickets, or at the very least to register interest for the 2024 Magic Weekend.

The six games began brilliantly with Salford and Hull KR serving up a thrilling match on Saturday afternoon that could have gone either way for much of the 80 minutes.

With their victory, Salford have moved into fifth place (and who would have imagined Leigh would be fourth), just two points behind the Catalans, who head the table just on the half-way stage of the season.

There was one very controversial incident, I thought, in the opening game, when Kallum Watkins touched down for a try but was penalised for his effort.

I’m still not absolutely sure whether that was for a double movement (his arm didn’t seem to touch the ground until he got the ball on the line) or because the referee had called held (which I couldn’t hear on the TV coverage).

I would love to have some more detail on that decision, as I’m sure would Salford coach Paul Rowley. If the Red Devils had lost the game by a very narrow margin, I’m sure that decision would have been hotly debated.

Having said that, Hull KR brought more fans to the Magic Weekend than any other club and they surely deserved to see their club get a win for them. Hopefully, if the Magic Weekend does survive, they will see that next year.

The shock of the weekend was Wigan’s weak performance against the Catalans, which is their fourth successive Magic Weekend defeat.

Why should that be? I wish I knew the answer and I’m sure Wigan coach Matty Peet and the Wigan supporters would also like to know why they continue to disappoint at the Magic Weekend.

I wonder whether there is an unconscious easing off in the middle of the season before they renew their challenge later in the year as the big games approach.

Of course no game is bigger for Wigan than one against St Helens and this Friday they will travel to the Totally Wicked Stadium to take on their great rivals.

When you look at the Magic performances of the two clubs, you might think that Wigan would be in for a heavy beating.

But if I were a Saints fan, I wouldn’t bank on that. A Saints-Wigan derby is played by its own rules and the main rule is that both sides will give of their best.

The other group of supporters who will have enjoyed the weekend as much as anyone will be the Hull and Castleford fans.

In the final game of the weekend, Hull came back from an early deficit to register a vital win over Warrington to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Hull are still four points outside the top six, but their form on Sunday afternoon suggests that they are capable of challenging strongly in the second half of the season and that run of seven defeats earlier in the season is now just a memory. I’m glad that the club owner Adam Pearson didn’t panic when his club was going through that awful patch.

One of the great images of the weekend was of Castleford coach Andy Last celebrating his team’s victory and the Tigers’ fans celebrating with him.

Their win over Leeds was the closest and probably the most exciting game of the weekend and the way the Tigers recovered from a ten-point deficit showed that there is plenty of spirit in the camp, which wasn’t so apparent just a few weeks ago.

I was particularly pleased to see their two young wingers, Elliot Wallis and Jason Qareqare, scoring fine tries. I would hope that both those players are in the early stages of long careers.

Sadly, however, their win over Leeds means that Wakefield’s position looks increasingly hopeless.

Trinity never stood a chance against Leigh, who now lie in fourth place and are easily the best promoted club at this stage of the season in the history of Super League. They look a strong bet for the playoffs, which no one could have imagined prior to the start of the season.

So will the Magic Weekend survive in the IMG era?

It seems that almost everyone except IMG want it to.

I hope that Rugby League’s new partner has the ability to listen to the game’s supporters.