IT HAS its detractors – most innovative ideas in rugby league do – but Magic Weekend is shaping up to be the best yet.
Of course, that sounds like the usual parlance of a certain broadcaster which televises live Super League on a weekly and seasonal basis.
In this case, though, there may be some real truth to this utterance given even the graveyard shift of Saturday lunchtime has some appeal.
London Broncos v Catalan Dragons is often only watched by the stewards in Etihad Stadium and possibly a few revellers looking to get in position early when it comes to securing decent seats nearest the bar. Yet today’s opening offering might actually produce a decent game even if it is only viewed by a handful of spectators.
Admittedly, London have lost all 13 games they have played this season and some by embarrassing scorelines, but are things aligning to finally set up their first victory? Catalan are notoriously inconsistent travellers and, when it comes to Magic Weekend, have won just twice in six visits, losing to London (in their Harlequins guise, at least) on two previous occasions. So, there could be a story to tell there.
Following that there is Salford Red Devils v Widnes Vikings – hurrah to the organisers from this correspondent for keeping the Yorkshire sides out of the fray as long as possible – and another intriguing fixture.
It seems absurd given Iestyn Harris has only been in charge of Salford for six games, but you sort of sense the outlandish Marwan Koukash might just give him the bullet if they lose again.
That’s maybe a bit far-fetched – or is it? – but, undoubtedly, there is pressure on Harris to start having an impact and get the big-spenders up into the top eight.
Widnes, though, have, along with Castleford, been a surprise team so far, riding high until an unexpected home loss to Wakefield last week.
They require a victory to ensure their impressive start does not begin to erode.
The Hull derby always serves up some sort of controversy and the expected bite you anticipate from such a fixture but, furthermore, both sides are really desperate for a win.
The victors could be catapulted along quite nicely into the play-off spots; the losers will be looking nervously the other way.
Tonight is rounded off with the reigning champions Wigan Warriors against the biggest challengers to their crown – a Leeds Rhinos machine that just keeps on purring.
Even without Sean O’Loughlin in the Wigan ranks, this should serve to be a classic contest worthy of the admission money on its own.
In years gone by, Wakefield Trinity v Castleford has not been deemed as one of the leading derbies at Magic Weekend but, given the latter’s new-found emergence towards the top end of Super League and the former’s recent revival, this is similarly well-poised.
What a story, too, if Richard Owen makes an instant impact for Wakefield against the side that let him go just this week.
Bradford Bulls desperately need a win against Huddersfield Giants ,who welcome back Brett Ferres after his five-game ban, while St Helens and Warrington Wolves is a perfect fixture to round things off.
And not just because it means I can get a quick getaway...