GARETH WALKER looks back at the Magic Weekend and its possible impact on the Newcastle Thunder club.
THERE was much to admire across the Magic Weekend in the north east – and not just from a Super League perspective either.
The night before the annual two-day event – held for the first time at St James’ Park and with some success – ambitious League One club Newcastle Thunder hosted York at their Kingston Park base.
This is a big year for Thunder generally – their change in name and home are steps that they hope will move the club onto a new level.
And their Friday night clash with the City Knights showed the kind of potential they have, as 2,576 turned up to witness a 32-14 win that leaves them joint top of the competition going into this weekend, along with Rochdale, Oldham and Keighley.
The attendance was boosted by a number of Super League fans wanting to take in a game the night before Magic – but there was also a much larger local contingent present than usual as well.
In fact it was the largest home crowd Thunder had attracted since their own solitary Super League season in 1999 – and the first time they had beaten the Knights since 2008.
Stanley Gene’s team continues to show signs of genuine progression, and if they can tempt a few of those newcomers last weekend to come back to Kingston Park on a regular basis, then hopes of becoming a Championship club in coming years are certainly realistic.
The club’s vice captain Louis Sheriff – who has played top flight rugby with Hull KR – offered an insight into what the night meant for Thunder and north east rugby league in general on their official website.
Sheriff said: “It was brilliant, the atmosphere was great, the energy of the crowd really helped us.
“Everyone loves playing in front of a lot of fans; you get a buzz off them. There a good handful that follow us throughout the country week in week out and their support is massive, but with 2,500 for York and 60 odd thousand out at Magic, things are looking good for rugby league in the North East.
“Fingers crossed we’ve turned a few heads and with the rugby union and the football being finished we might be able to attract a few of those guys down.
“We’ve got a massive catchment area for fans, sport is huge in the area and I think league has a massive place in that.”
“The marketing team behind us are doing their job and getting the crowds here so it’s down to us to keep putting on a show and getting the people through the gates.”
Gareth Walker is League Express‘s Championship correspondent. His columns appear every Monday in the digital and paper versions of the newspaper.