I'm going to start with a confession. I was dreading Millennium Magic weekend.
Seven rugby league games, back to back, in FEBRUARY? What kind of mad idea was that?
After two years in shivery Scotland, in May, there was no way people were going to sit happily for two days in one of the traditionally coldest months of the year. Were they?
I mean, it's hard enough to stretch your kids' boredom threshold beyond a full 80 minutes...imagine what it would be like for two days, in icy conditions. I said up front it was a non-starter.
I was wrong. This year I fell back in love with the Magic Weekend. And here are my five big reasons why the rugby league family should embrace the concept as a traditional season-opener and support it in anyway they can, even if it's just from the comfort of the sofa. Sing along now...
Cardiff is the home of Magic Weekend. Let's stop wasting breath and time debating other venues. It won't work anywhere else.
Quotes of the week
Always take the weather with you: When I whinged about the potential for frozen toes and fingers, many of you pointed out that the roof at Cardiff would be closed and that would keep us warm. I scoffed. But you were right. It kept the stadium snug and cosy and improved the atmosphere. What your response also showed me was that positive attitude can also make a difference. The warmth of the camaraderie among fans meant that wherever we were, the disposition was sunny.
Stuck in the middle with you: Edinburgh is a beautiful city, but it didn't work for the Magic Weekend. It took a greater effort the get to the stadium from the city, and as a result many had to make a choice about which games they really wanted to watch live. The geography of the Millennium Stadium meant that just popping out for a beer and a browse of the shops was an option without having to sacrifice enjoyment of the games. Cardiff is the home of Magic Weekend. Let's stop wasting breath and time debating other venues. It won't work anywhere else.
Two Tribes: The return to derby games. Wow. Why did we ever think anything else would work as well? I felt privileged to be there, witnessing the passion that the games generated. And surely for the players, no game is gonna get you pumped up for the season better than a fixture against your oldest traditional enemy.
Get this party started: My fears about the weather conditions are now cast aside, so let's urge the RFL to begin a new RL tradition. Critics had complained about the whimper start to the season in previous years, now we get an almighty big bang to get the party started. The close season drags on for an eternity an the one thing all fans have in common is the desperate desire to see their side back in action with a vengeance, Now we get to enjoy the experience en masse. The RFL got it spot on this year too, with regard to 'entertainment', opting for the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid). No Cheggers, no ambitious distractions at half time. Just abseiling mascots and a daft race across the pitch. I loved it. Experience has taught us that the only entertainment we need is provided by 13 men against 13 men, for 80 minutes.
Sound of the crowd. Yes, the stadium did look a bit empty, all of those seats unoccupied. But 30,000 in one ground for a league game? Isn't that what we should be celebrating? It really is time to stop getting hung up on bums on seats and look at the wider picture. Clubs still got income from ticket sales; the fans got an away day and those who couldn't make it for whatever reason, still got to watch every single game from home. And all in 3D if you wanted another dimension too. The atmosphere inside the stadium for 90 percent of the weekend was wonderful and outside the ground was as special as ever.
In a perfect world, we'd have a bank holiday on the Monday after Magic Weekend, a day for recovery and travel. But for me the good points outweigh the bad and I am glad the RFL have persisted with the concept. And I, for one, am delighted I was proved wrong.
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Rose Gador says...
My, oh my. In my opinion the school's out on the idea of taking the game on the road. I always thought that the name of the game, for Super league, was to cater for families? It costs too much for families to attend for a day, let alone a weekend, but does cater for the drunken gangs of fans we see at most large events. After all, money's too tight to mention these days unless you are single or are lucky enough to have a free ticket/hotel! It may be alright for girls on film to have faith with the location but picture this ¿. Having the event played at stadium in the heartlands would make it within easy reach of the majority of RL fans plus at a fraction of the cost! I say better the devil you know if, like me, you would like to save some brass in pocket. Time after time we have changes to rules, fixtures and the setup of Super league so I think it's about time the RL authorities started to listen to the sound of the crowd and go back to the start. You mentioned K.I.S.S. well pass the message on to the meddlers in suits because something better change!
Posted 19:27 22nd February 2011
Neil Robinson says...
Ignore Mr Flatcapper there. Magic Weekend is something to build on. Most of us view it as an excuse for a weekend away, based around the sport we love. What's wrong with that? Also, what's wrong with spreading the word? Sadly though, spreading the word is not what's happening - It's entirely right to want to start the season with a bang, but to achieve this, the event needs to be promoted properly. The Welsh love their rugby of both codes, yet all the Welsh people I spoke to had no knowledge of the Magic Weekend. None whatsoever. Yet, the RFL produced and broadcast TV adverts in Granada and Yorkshire. What's the good of that? We all know about it, and will base our decision of whether or not to go on the event itself - not some TV ad telling us what we already know. The money spent on that, would have been better spent advertising on the historic 'HTV' region - you will stand a lot more chance of people deciding to go last minute if the event is local. And we're not just talking about the rugby-mad Welsh here - places like Bath and Bristol are not too far away. That's surely worth something.
Posted 12:19 17th February 2011
Bob Pember says...
I watched the Majic Weekend on my computer here in chilly Canada. I think it's a great concept and it was good to see most of the games were closely contested. The icing on the cake was seeing my team, The Giants, win the opening game. It's also good to see the game spreading around the world, even to Canada. I will be at the Galpharm in June to see the Giants take on Cas.
Posted 02:30 16th February 2011
Dominic Roman says...
Was Angela sat in a hospitality box? - I thought it was freezing! Rather have it end of May - warmer and after the football season has ended (therefore attracting more fans).
Posted 12:52 15th February 2011
Martin Aspey says...
Have to disagree with you Andrea. The Magic weekend should be scrapped. I've been to all three Cardiff events and it just isn't working. The games as usual are high quality, but the empty stadium provides little atmosphere and looks horrendous on TV, especially compared to the packed stadia for the RU 6 nations events taking place on the same weekend. The tickets are great value, but the hotels, beer and travel certainly aren't. The crowd seems to be made up of fans who would follow their teams anywhere. I didn't see any welsh people checking out what all the fuss is about (probably because the were all in the pub watching Wales v Scotland!) My suggestions are 1. make superleague consist of 15 teams. That way each team plays 28 rounds, but also gets 2 bye-weeks to rest players. Or 2. Implement a high profile sevens tournament during the summer with decent prize money to ensure the teams take it seriously. In a slightly smaller stadium like Elland Road or Anfield, I'm sure the atmosphere would be great.
Posted 12:32 15th February 2011
Ian Gwynne says...
Couldn't agree more with everything Angela said. The issues of bums on seats in the stadium could be improved by a look at the Six Nations calendar. There probably weren't as many locals coming along to try it out as the Wales v scotland match would have been the local draw. There were an awful lot of Welsh in Scotland over last weekend and these people could well have been tempted to come along, especially as tickets were such good value. I do understand that Magic is for the fans but it would be great for the promotion of the game if the stadium was full and the locals could sample what the atmosphere is like at a league game. Might even get BBC Wales to take some notice then
Posted 11:30 15th February 2011
Dean Fisher says...
I have to agree Angela, what a fantastic event. Everybody has an idea what a Magic Weekend should consist of if only to suit their individual preference. The venue is awesome and location ideal (leaves Edinburgh standing) so trialling other potential venues is a complete waste of time. Forget silly gimmicks and just let the players provide the entertainment. The season launching derbies also add the 'magic' element, and as far as I can understand, the only negativity surrounding the weekend appears to be from the direction of those supporters who have the misfortune of missing out on what has turned into a magnificent RL extravaganza. Those who do decide to make the trip I feel, would travel wherever necessary in order to watch their team play and ultimately find the funds from somewhere. Every team gets to experience the ' big stage' atmosphere, even if it is around 50% full. I do have a certain amount of sympathy for the members of the RL community who simply cannot afford the experience (it is an expensive trip) ,they really are missing out on a special weekend.
Posted 20:50 14th February 2011
Jack Phillips says...
I've been to all the magic weekends, I for one was pleased to be heading back to Cardiff after the bitter cold last May in Scotland. Having the stadium in the city centre works for me, the concept of all the teams playin at one venue also works, it being the first games of a new season makes it even more interesting so well done to the RFL. My only comment for possible improvement would be to suggest the following - take this years final league positions, the bottom club play the grand final winners the week before the magic weekend, then the magic weekend would start with the next two clubs from the bottom playing and so on, finish the weekend with the World Club Challenge, this would encourage more fans to stay until the end to watch the best Aussie team play the best British team.
Posted 17:49 14th February 2011
John Coleman says...
I say scrap the Magic Weekend and stick to 13 home and 13 away games. Replace the 'Magic Weekend' with a charity shield event for both the Super League and Championship. Before the main event have an under card of the Northern Rail Cup Winners v The Championship Grand Final Winners. As the main event have the Challenge Cup Winners v Super League Grand Final winners. The clubs who are playing get a small % of the gate fees with the rest of the profits going towards the RFL's charity 'Try Assist'. This could be the new 'Magic Weekend' held in Cardiff each year. I think this would be a much better event, the stadium would look less empty for a long period of time and would be a great day out for all involved.
Posted 14:39 14th February 2011
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