On Sunday afternoon the Betfred Super League broke new ground, in more ways than one, as the opening round saw the entry of Toronto Wolfpack, Sonny Bill Williams and a double-header at Emerald Headingley stadium.
It’s not the first time that rugby league has had a double-bill, but it is the first time Super League has had two teams playing a home game at the same stadium, due to the constraints placed on the Wolfpack, who are unable to play at the Lamport Stadium until the historic visit of Hull FC in April.
With a total crowd of 19,500 for the two televised games, did it work for the fans and the people taking part? After research, and a couple of interviews, I can now invite you to draw your own conclusions.
Leeds Rhinos fan perspective
Bridget Emery: “The double-header seemed a good idea and great value. I enjoyed the atmosphere from the away fans. Both Cas and Hull fans were in good voice and quite funny.
“As a Rhinos fan, I quite enjoyed the first game. I love watching rugby live as a neutral. However somehow, and I’m not sure why, the atmosphere didn’t build for the Rhinos v Hull kick-off.
“It all felt a bit flat, I mean before the game, obviously once we went behind and it was clear what was going to happen, it was definitely flat and pretty grim in the South Stand.
“Some of what was missing, was the atmosphere of the old South Stand. I’m a big supporter of the new ground and I know it had to happen, but undeniably the passion of the old stand has gone.
“The fireworks etc didn’t really do it for me, and the shirt clash was frankly embarrassing by both teams, I can’t believe no-one thought about it pre kick-off.
“So, I guess, while I like the idea of double headers, it didn’t quite work for me. Not sure how much the result added to that if I’m being honest.
“Maybe I’d have felt more positive if we’d have turned up, but I already felt a bit flat before our game kicked off.”
Castleford Tigers fan’s perspective
Matthew Townsley: “Firstly, I really enjoyed the day, the excitement around the two games. It was like a mini Magic Weekend.
“I would say it appealed more as an event, than say playing Toronto at home first up. Headingley is a first-class venue.
“I was in the South Stand for the first time since its rebirth and it really is a top-notch facility.
“£5.20 for a pint is a little expensive, but I guess that’s what you charge when you have state-of-the-art facilities.
“It was pleasing to see how full the ground was, even for the start of Castleford v Toronto, I was shocked how packed the South Stand was.
“I’d be all for something like this again. Two games for the price of one, generally great interaction between fans too.
“Headingley as an area is decent to host events like that. Plenty of bars, pubs and eateries close by to warm up before and after.”
Rachel Brocklehurst said: “We went for both games and I can honestly say I loved every minute, except for when the rain started.
“Mixing with fans from other teams was great. We all joined in together and cheered for each other (Cas and Hull fans).
“Brilliant banter between us all and no trouble whatsoever where we were stood! Brilliant day all round.”
Alan Poole added: “Couldn’t get a ticket, but the ground half empty for the first game? For double-headers more thought should be put into ticket allocation.
But he did continue to say: “It was a great spectacle for a television audience though.”
Hull FC fan’s perspective
Kelly Cheesman: “It really was a great day, topped off, of course by our great performance.
“I loved watching both games, even the weather couldn’t dampen our spirits. Great way to start the season.
“Great that it was shown the respect and televised by Sky Sports too. A great advertisement for our sport.”
However, on the other side of the coin, many fans were unhappy with ticketing arrangements for different reasons.
Paddy and Tracey Lawson said: “Leeds has been brilliantly upgraded over the years, but as you saw on Sunday, the weather was atrocious.
“For the away fans to stand on a hill, with no adequate cover, isn’t good enough. Enjoyed the double header, stood with lots of Cas fans, with no problems and good banter.
“The other problem with having it at Leeds is the inadequate parking facilities, it’s bad enough with just a normal game. Get these two problems sorted and I would definitely go again.”
Craig Harper added: “Double headers need to be at grounds where they need the revenue, and comfortably cater for a big, big crowd.
“I would suggest, for arguments sake, Wigan v Salford and St. Helens v Huddersfield at DW Stadium. Packed out and would give poorer supported teams some revenue.
“Sadly, the problem with Sunday was, if Hull had been playing Leeds on a Sunday afternoon, we would have taken 4k and would’ve made a fantastic noise coming from the West Stand Terrace.”
Hull FC head coach Lee Radford
“We didn’t have any issues, I think the ground helped.
“Leeds have got four fantastic changing facilities so, that enabled for the game to go ahead, so yeah that was good, to get there and watch a game before, but yeah, I really enjoyed the occasion.”
Hull FC signings Manu Ma’u
“Yeah I didn’t mind the experience, the singing and that was really good.
“It’s just a game, I was there to do a job and we got the win so it’s all good.”