IT’S NOT everybody’s cup of tea, but I like the Magic Weekend. I’ve enjoyed it ever since it started back in 2007.
That first game we played, against Bradford, was one of the ones I’ll always remember and we seem to have been involved in some close matches ever since.
There’s two points at stake, like every other week in the regular rounds, but it feels bigger than that.
It’s not quite a cup final atmosphere in the build up or on the day, but it does feel like a semi-final.
There’s more anticipation and the adrenaline flows a bit more when you have a look around the stadium and run out for the warm-up.
We had a good record at Magic until we ran into Wigan a couple of years ago. Saturday will be the third year we’ve played them and they’ve got the upper hand so far, so that’s something we want to change this time.
May is the right time to hold it. It’s mid-season, everyone – players and fans – is getting a bit weary and Magic is a good freshener.
It’s something to look forward to that’s a bit different. I know there’s been suggestions Magic is turned into a Nines tournament, or it should be a Challenge Cup round rather than Super League.
Maybe improvements could be made and there might be things they can tweak about the event, but I’d like to see it continue in the future.
It is a real festival of rugby league and it’s great to see fans of different clubs mingling together.
From a players’ point of view, it is an opportunity to play on a big stage in front of a larger-than-usual crowd.
I’m lucky to have played in a lot of finals and semi-finals, but not everyone gets that opportunity so it’s a good experience for those players who haven’t as well as young lads coming through at teams like us and Wigan.
I watched a bit of the Championships’ Summer Bash on TV last weekend and that was good entertainment.
There were some cracking matches and it seemed like a real party atmosphere, so Super League has got something to live up to.
Magic Weekends have been held at some big stadiums in the past, Millennium Stadium, Murrayfield and the Etihad, but I imagine St James’ Park will be a bit special.
I’ve never been there, but it always looks fantastic on TV and Kev Sinfield was impressed when he went up there for a media launch on Tuesday. I think the Geordies are a lot like rugby league fans, they are passionate and they really get behind their team, so I’m sure any neutrals who go along will enjoy the occasion and the games.
I was reading that quite a few tickets have been sold to locals and so there’s the potential to create some new fans.
We’re playing in the final game on Saturday, at 7pm, which is a bit of a strange kick-off time, but the stadium should be packed then and if there’s 40,000 or so in the ground, it is going to be a huge event.
That said, we’ve got to make sure we stay focused on the job at hand and we don’t get too wrapped up in the occasion.
We’re used to playing big matches, so that shouldn’t be a problem for us and this is one of the most important league fixtures we’ve had so far.
I think we’re over the little dip we had earlier this month, but it is getting tight at the top of the table and we need to keep picking up points.
Wigan will want to bounce back after a couple of defeats and they will be hurting after shipping in 58 points at Catalans last week, so they are going to be even more dangerous than they usually are.
But we are concentrating on ourselves this year and that seems to be working for us.
We have had a look at Wigan and studied some areas we think we can exploit, as well as their strengths, but we are mainly focused on getting our game right.
We’ve shown this year that if we do that, we are going to be in with a chance of beating anybody, but drop below our standards and it will be a tough 80 minutes.
FOR TODAY’s column I’ve tried to find out a little more about my team-mate Stevie Ward, as he goes into the hotseat to answer my 10 questions. If you’ve got any questions for Rhinos players, email me via Peterj.Smith@jpress.co.uk or you can contact me on Twitter.
1: What’s your favourite food?
Any type of curry, especially Indian or Thai.
2: Favourite holiday destination?
3: Dream car?
4: Favourite away ground?
5: Toughest opponent?
6: Best rugby league moment?
Walking out to start at Challenge Cup final at Wembley.
7: Old Trafford or Wembley?
8: Favourite sport?
After rugby league, I enjoy playing tennis.
9: TV programme?
10 Funniest team-mate?