Dave Craven: Let’s bring the magic back to Wembley and Old Trafford

Leeds's Ashton Golding & Castleford's Greg Minikin with the Betfred Super League trophy ahead of their Magic Weekend game.
Leeds's Ashton Golding & Castleford's Greg Minikin with the Betfred Super League trophy ahead of their Magic Weekend game.
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FOR all those rugby league addicts out there, it does not get much better than today – and I’m not just talking Magic Weekend.

Yes, that behemoth will be underway again this afternoon with the first of six Super League games inside 27 hours in the rather fine St James’ Park.

But looking at the bigger picture – no pun intended – the three fixtures at Newcastle today alone are just part of another feast of rugby league.

After Wakefield Trinity face Widnes Vikings (2.30pm), Hull FC v St Helens (4.45pm) and then Wigan Warriors against Warrington Wolves (7pm) you can always head over to Premier Sports again to see Toronto Wolfpack against Barrow Raiders (9.15pm).

Then, if your appetite has still not been sated, you can see Sam Burgess’s South Sydney Rabbitohs in action against Melbourne Storm tomorrow morning (9.30am) as well before doing it all again in the Toon.

Huddersfield Giants v Catalans Dragons (1pm) start things off once more there. I’m sure someone somewhere will watch them all.

Throw in Leigh Centurions v Salford and the small matter of Castleford Tigers v Leeds Rhinos and you can see my point.

For all the issues the sport has with gaining profile at times, there is certainly currently no shortage of opportunities to watch rugby league on the box.

With the Beeb’s Super League Show and excellent streaming service of the Challenge Cup’s earlier rounds, too, and even the RFL – love it or loathe it – deciding to do likewise with the England v Samoa game via its website recently, fans have rarely had so many options.

But back to the live action and Magic Weekend. I’ll be there in Newcastle again to witness events unfold and there should be some cracking match-ups, too.

However, I am not the first to begin to question whether the sport does really need it anymore.

This is its 11th year now via Cardiff, Edinburgh, Manchester and, with its third campaign, Newcastle. Those fans who go do invariably love it and it is certainly a unique event.

But that is what it is – an event.

In a week where the Super League executive director has mentioned the Challenge Cup “losing its shine” and, most bizarrely, potentially even shifting its final away from its traditional iconic home of Wembley, it only served to crystallise something else in my mind.

Yes, the Challenge Cup has lost some its sparkle but not because of anything Wembley-related.

Firstly, there’s its positioning in the calendar – August rather than May – and the fact, for instance, Leeds Rhinos may only have to beat one Super League side to reach this year’s final.

But also if the governing body are worried about falling crowds at Wembley maybe it is because there are simply too many ‘events’ competing in the sport.

So here’s a suggestion; let’s get rid of Magic.

As busted players prepare for their ‘second Easter’ of the season with two games in four days next weekend, it only makes this extra Magic round all the more ludicrous and superfluous.

That is before you even go into how the added match ruins any chance of fairness in the final league standings.

It’s been fun while it’s lasted but if things really are so bad it seems the time has come to start making sure the magic is retained where it matters most – the main events at Wembley and Old Trafford. Can’t see it being sacrificed, though, can you...?