Magic Weekend for me, is Magic. As a Wigan fan that moved to Durham University in 2007 and hasn’t moved back to the North West due to working commitments, a Wigan game in the North East is very much welcomed! Travelling back from Swinton on Sunday and knowing that my next journey home from a Wigan game will be 30 mins, rather than 2 hours 30 minutes, is a selfish but warranted reason to get excited about Saturday for myself.
This is likely to be the last Magic Weekend at Newcastle for a few years at least, as the RFL look to move the fixtures to somewhere new, potentially Coventry. Newcastle, has been a good hunting ground for Wigan in the past two seasons, with two very good wins over the Leeds Rhinos at St James Park. This year, an injury-hit Wigan against an improving Warrington side, then still looked less convincing in their cup game against Widnes. My disappointment with the suggested move away from Newcastle, is obviously due to the location but what that means for those who attended the games over the past three years, who may have been newcomers to the sport. Are the RFL doing enough to keep them interested in the game? The Newcastle Thunder (formerly Gateshead) now play at Kingston Park, home of the Newcastle Falcons and attract between 700 – 1200 fans per game. But where is the legacy for those fans wanting to watch Super League players and when will the next time be when Rugby League at a higher level than League One is played in the North East? As such, what was the point in taking Magic Weekend to Newcastle? Yes, they have had two decent crowds each weekend but what’s the long term strategy of having the Magic Weekend in a city that is unfamiliar with Rugby League.
The argument of moving it to Coventry next year is the rumoured interest of creating a Wasps Rugby League brand, to sit alongside their Rugby Union counterparts who have recently made the move to Coventry from London. The argument for Coventry is already there in that case and a long term strategy (as much as long term RL strategy exists) is there but without some development in the North East from the RFL – what was the point in 2015, 2016 and 2017? It is important that some commitment is made to the North East, perhaps a guaranteed World Cup game in 2021 would be a start but three years of good crowds at Newcastle’s Magic Weekend could be a wasted venture unless a commitment is made to the North East from the RFL.