It is that time of the year again in the sporting calendar when the fourteen clubs of Super League come together for a weekend of incredible action. For the third consecutive May, the teams, supporters and officials will gather at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium for a full round of seven fixtures, to be played out over two days.
This year’s staging of the event will be the eighth Magic Weekend, which itself is something to celebrate for a sport that often beats itself up for not being able to stick with an idea if it does not bring instant success.
The concept of the Magic Weekend was the creation of chief executive of the Rugby Football League, Nigel Wood. Mr Wood appears to be enjoying something of a renaissance in popularity as he receives some overdue and deserved credit for his role in making last year’s Rugby League World Cup, which was held at venues throughout England and Wales, such as success.
The original idea began with two weekends in Cardiff, which tied in with the launch of the Celtic Crusaders as a Super League club, with the next two weekends held in Edinburgh. There was then a return to Cardiff for a year, for the first weekend of the season in February 2011, made possible in the winter months by the roof of the Millennium Stadium.
However, in 2012 the Magic Weekend was taken up north, to the heartland of where Super League is most popular, whilst also providing a boost to the local economy in such tough financial times.
Wood was able to sell the concept to Super League clubs, many of whom were skeptical at the start of the idea, because success in sport has increasingly relied on developing major events. He has been able to argue that the Magic Weekend would prove a significantly bigger hit than a normal round of league fixtures if it was played on the first weekend after the end of the Premier League football season, when the hunger for live sport is still there. Although this year it has meant that the tea-time kick-off of the Hull KR and Hull FC game will clash with Hull City FC’s appearance in the FA Cup Final against Arsenal.
Ahead of the Hull derby, the two bottom sides, London Broncos and Catalan Dragons get the Magic Weekend underway at lunch-time, before making way for the Widnes Vikings to play Salford Red Devils in a mid-table clash. Saturday’s action is rounded off by the game of the weekend, as Wigan Warriors face current table-toppers Leeds Rhinos.
Sunday’s action begins with the first Yorkshire derby of the day as Castleford Tigers play Wakefield Wildcats, prior to Huddersfield Giants game against the Bradford Bulls. The 2014 Magic Weekend concludes with Warrington Wolves taking on St Helens.
It is sure to be another action-packed and enjoyable couple of days for Rugby League lovers at the Etihad Stadium once again.