For Magic Weekend 2014, organisers have largely stayed faithful to last season’s format after its fixtures were revealed yesterday, writes Dave Craven.
All seven First Utility Super League matches set for the Etihad Stadium in Manchester are the same as last May with only the kick-off slots altering.
For instance, Leeds Rhinos again play Wigan Warriors, but instead of rounding the weekend off on Sunday night as they did last term, the two giants now bring Saturday’s action to a conclusion.
The Hull v Hull KR derby retains its 5pm slot on Saturday, May 17, but Wakefield Trinity Wildcats and Castleford Tigers see their clash pushed back to the following day at 12.30pm.
Huddersfield Giants face Bradford Bulls (2.45pm) once more in the middle Sunday slot with Warrington Wolves and St Helens moving from Saturday night to the last fixture of the weekend (Sun, 5pm).
Predictably, London Broncos and Catalan Dragons once more take the graveyard slot, opening the annual bonanza on Saturday lunchtime (12.30pm) in a game swiftly followed by Widnes Vikings v Salford City Reds (2.45pm).
Of course, with the return of promotion and relegation at the end of this season, the Magic Weekend concept – now in its eighth year – does open up new questions.
Does the “extra” game, played on top of a side’s usual 26 fixtures home and away, create an uneven playing field given some, theoretically, have easier ties than others?
With the battle for points so intense in 2014, with no one daring to be dragged into the relegation mire with two clubs going down, there will surely be further importance on this round of games.
However, it is seen as one of the RFL’s better initiatives and continues to be supported, with clubs fully aware of the potential effect it could have on the relegation fight.
It takes place at Manchester City’s ground for the third consecutive season after previous incarnations at Cardiff and Edinburgh.
Tickets go on sale on Monday from clubs and the RFL ticket office.
Saturday, May 17: London Broncos v Catalan Dragons (12.30pm), Widnes Vikings v Salford City Reds (2.45pm), Hull KR v Hull FC (5pm), Wigan Warriors v Leeds Rhinos (7.15pm)
Sunday, May 18: Wakefield Trinity Wildcats v Castleford Tigers (12.30pm), Huddersfield Giants v Bradford Bulls (2.45pm), Warrington Wolves v St Helens (5pm).