The Magic Weekend is 14 years old, it feels like a long long time since Kevin Sinfield was missing that penalty at the very first Magic Weekend only for Jordan Tansey to scoop up the rebound and score the winner against Bradford. Quite a lot has changed since.
The date of the event has bounced around. In general, it’s stayed in May but has moved between the start and end of the month. Meanwhile, we’ve seen one open the season and last week’s Magic Weekend was the first one to take place towards the end of the season in September.
Of course, the venue has also constantly changed. The first two took place in Cardiff, then there was a move to Edinburgh before going back to Cardiff. Then off to Manchester before a shift to Newcastle. In 2019 we experienced a brief detour to Liverpool and this year we were back to Newcastle and St James’ Park.
But is the weekend still magic? Does it still have the same sparkle it did in 2007? Long gone are the traditional derbies which added extra spice to it. Granted the decision to put Catalans and St Helens together worked well with a table topping clash but finding the right fixtures for the weekend always seems difficult especially now that the derbies are off the table.
So, I return to the question you saw in the headline: do we need to change the Magic Weekend? Does it need a revamp to re-introduce the magic which made it so special in the first place?
Now, you might find these questions untimely. Day one of this year’s Magic Weekend was arguably the greatest day in the concept’s history. That said, day two wasn’t quite as exciting and perhaps that’s one of the problems. In its old age it’s lost some of its sparkle and if the stakes aren’t high enough – such as in the Huddersfield-Wakefield game – then the Magic Weekend fixture becomes just another game.
So how to fix this? I’ve seen a number of suggestions over the years. One such idea was replacing it with a nines tournament which certainly seems like an innovative idea especially if the sport utilised nines in the same way cricket uses the Hundred to attract new fans as I recently advocated. Using the Magic Weekend as a showpiece event for a different format of the game could be a really savvy idea. It would get eyes on a different version of our game and attract new fans.
Of course, others have suggested that we take the event outside of the UK which would also be a beneficial idea as it would take our game to new supporters. Perhaps we could capitalise on the recent success of Catalans and Toulouse in France or even go further adrift to somewhere like Italy or outside Europe. If marketed it well it could bring in new fans from the UK looking to explore a new sport and a new place whilst also attracting new supporters in a different country.
Meanwhile, I’ve seen simpler ideas such as using the event to host the Challenge Cup quarter-finals which would provide a further incentive for Championship teams to go far in the competition.
Ultimately, I’ve loved the Magic Weekend since its inception however like everything it needs a new injection of life to keep it relevant and keep new fans coming in. But how do we do bring back the magic?