Since the concept’s inception back in 2007, the Magic Weekend has been hosted by five fantastic stadiums across the UK.
All have fond memories attached to them and helped expand rugby league into the respective territories. Yes, the age old question rumbles on, ‘should we do more with the weekend, should we take it abroad,’ but the fact remains that the Magic Weekend has been a success over its 15 year existence though it is coming to an end in the next few years.
So, respecting that success we’re looking back on the five venues and ranking them to name the best.
Only the second ever Magic Weekend, it did play host to some magic moments such as Leeds’ 2010 comeback against Wakefield and Crusaders shock win over Bradford. There was also a particularly fiery affair between Wigan and Huddersfield. If those fixtures seem odd, that’s because the Magic Weekends in Scotland had interesting systems behind the fixtures. In 2009, it was based on the previous season’s league standings and in 2010 was done at random which took away some of the high profile fixtures we expect at the weekend. It’s also telling that after two years, the event moved away and never returned.
What a historic stadium to take rugby league to – this is what sees it above Murrayfield and into fourth place. It did host just one event which keeps it low on this list but it was a fairly rememberable one for a topsy turvy game between Hull KR and Salford and a scintillating display from Huddersfield in a Liverpool inspired jersey.
3. The Etihad
There were two drawbacks with the Etihad: the fact that there is already a major rugby league event in the city – the small matter of a Grand Final – and the fact fans complained that there was little to do in the surrounding areas. However, it played host to one of the best Magic Weekends in 2012 which included five try hauls from Danny McGuire and Joel Monaghan, superb games between Huddersfield and Salford as well as in a controversial and dramatic Hull derby and a superb display from Wigan against St Helens. Wigan would also catch the eye in 2013 and 2014 in Manchester edging classic encounters against Leeds.
2. Millennium Stadium
Home to the first Magic Weekend, the Millennium Stadium will always have a special place in Super League history. That first Magic Weekend was superb as well and was complete with the concept’s greatest ever game between Leeds and Bradford which was adorned by its immortal controversial conclusion. In 2008, we were treated to more great rugby especially an encounter between Huddersfield and Warrington who again served up a great game when the concept returned to Wales in 2011. Leeds and Bradford also produced a show with the Rhinos conjuring up a great comeback whilst Wigan and St Helens played out a nail-biting draw in a Round One Grand Final rematch.
1. St James’ Park
The fact we’ve returned to St James’ park after a brief spell away is a reminder of its quality as a venue. Like Anfield, it has rich sporting history and is a territory rugby league is still growing in. It’s the centre of the city so there’s loads to do and has played host to some magic moments. In 2015 Huddersfield and Catalans served up a cracker but last year’s event was one of the best ever especially day one as Catalans produced an amazing comeback win to secure the League Leaders’ Shield against the Champions before a classic match between Leeds and Hull FC which also ended in Golden Point.