Another year, another Magic weekend gone. One of these days, I will have both the combination of time and money to actually attend one live. Until then, I’ll just have to make a judgement based on the presentation of the event on Sky Sports. I suspect that I’m not quite getting the same experience as those who got to attend live, and I’m jealous of them as Edinburgh is a great city. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the many hours I spent in front of my TV screen watching far more Rugby League than I would normally get on screen (and if I had Setanta, I could’ve thrown in some NRL as well).
For the most part, the event came across really well on TV. The only two games which felt a bit flat were the openers for each of the days (Quins-Salford on Saturday and Giants-Celtic on Sunday) which doesn’t surprise me because a) I expect many people were still making their way into the stadium that early on and b) those were in many respects the two least compelling match ups. However, Murrayfield seemed to come across better on TV than the Millennium Stadium did, which I suspect is a combination of being a (slightly) more compact stadium and also not having a roof whilst the sun shines. It probably also helped that all the games had a degree of excitement around them (the possible exception being the Giants-Celtic game, but even that had its moments). As a showcase for the product of Super League, you would have to say the players did their part.
I can see the flaws in the idea of the Magic Weekend, and why people would knock it. It takes a game away from the home fans of the clubs. The stadium is rarely more than half full, and for the early games it’s far too sparsely populated to generate a decent atmosphere. Some players are on record for saying that they don’t like the hassle that it brings on them. Also, it’s quite hard to maintain interest for a triple header of any sport, especially when the breaks in between each game are so short (even Test cricket has a proper break between sessions of play).
But despite these problems, I feel the positives outweigh the negatives. It clearly gets the sport more coverage in the media, both local and national. In The Times on Sunday, Simon Barnes named it as one of his three events to watch out for over the weekend (the only other time I’ve seen League mentioned here was the World Club Challenge, which should indicate how important big events are in generating coverage). We also got a full round of Super League televised, something that would never happen otherwise (admittedly the Hull-Cas game wasn’t available to those of us without Sky boxes, but at least it was available later on in the evening). On top of that, most of the games exceeded expectations and provided narrative thrusts that will run deep into the season. It’s hard to deny that £50 for seven games of Rugby League is good value for money.
There are a few things that I feel would improve the format. Firstly, don’t kick off a game at 12.30pm. I expect that many of the fans in Edinburgh were out experiencing the nightlife (I suspect a few might have even stayed up into the wee hours to watch Ricky Hatton’s capitulation to Manny Pacquiao) and the last thing anyone wants to do in that situation is get up early. Of course, the Giants-Celtic game had to kick off at that time out of practicality, which leads to my second point: three games a day maximum. Four is just overkill and doesn’t leave enough time between games (15-20 minutes between games? This isn’t a Nines comp, for Christ’s sake. There should be at least half an hour). Three days of games with two double headers (one on the Monday) and a triple header sounds best to me, although a single friday game in another stadium might also be an option.
The Magic Weekend is a work in progress still, but it’s another big event on the League calendar and I think people are starting to buy into the idea more. Will we ever get a full house watching all the games for the whole weekend? Unlikely, but as long as it manages to raise the profile of the sport, and as long as it’s catering to the desires of the fans, then I’d say it was a keeper. Hopefully I’ll be able to experience it first-hand next year.
That’s more like it. After last week’s travesty, I was much mor on the ball this week with five correct calls (and a lot of my margins weren’t far off either). I nearly chose Wigan as well, but thought that Saints would be up for it after the Bradford game. Shows what I know. Anyway, a degree of respectability restored.
Results: 44 / 83 (53%)
Margins 2 / 83 (2.4%)