Gareth Ellis: Challenge is to find way of tweaking our Magic Weekend

IT HAS been another bumper Magic Weekend but I am starting to think the concept could do with some tweaking.

Hull FC fans during the Betfred Super League, Magic Weekend.

I have been a massive fan of it. I played in the first one in Cardiff back in 2007 and have always thought it was great.

It’s almost like a festival of rugby league, the match-ups have been really good – predominantly local derbies – and the fans have got behind it.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

But I am just reading between the lines now and sense it could benefit from a freshen up.

From a playing point of view it’s a fantastic experience to step-out at a football stadium like Newcastle’s St James’ Park, or Man City or – that original one – at the Millennium Stadium.

It’s something different and obviously there’s been big crowds but I just sense speaking to fans, from their point of view, some seem to almost have had enough of it or want something a bit different.

I suppose it can get a bit expensive on top of the season passes and everything else and I do know some people want it scrapping altogether. I’m not sure what the right way is but I do like the idea of maybe holding a Ladbrokes Challenge Cup round at a Magic Weekend, instead.

It would make sense as obviously at the moment the current format means there is an extra, odd Super League fixture.

We generally play Hull KR so it is always a tough fixture but some of the other match-ups can be very different depending on how each team is going that year.

If one team gets a difficult opponent – like leaders St Helens, for example – then misses out on the top eight by just two points, being dragged into the Qualifiers instead, you can see why they would be aggrieved.

I’m sure every team does it every year (apart from the ones who win the Grand Final); you look back on the season and, if you do miss out on something by just two points, you think ‘if we’d just won that game, or this game...’

That’s especially so when the stakes are so high at the bottom of the ladder and, ultimately, relegation is a big threat.

It does make it very tight and close and – with 23 rounds instead of 22 – it can make a difference who you play in that one game.

From that point of view, a Challenge Cup weekend would be fairer and it would ease the pressure of having that extra game.

One less match in the year doesn’t sound like a lot but it would make a difference.

I think it would be great looking at having the sixth round as a Magic Weekend especially when you see some of the attendances in the Challenge Cup in this last round just recently.

There was some really poor crowds that were down on previous years.

So, maybe this idea would be just the kind of injection the famous old competition needs really to give it another lease of life and, at the same time, mix things up for Magic, too.

For us older players and the older generation, the Challenge Cup is still one of the best things you can ever compete in.

Obviously, I won it twice with Hull in the last two years before I retired and those moments will live with me forever.

Lifting the Challenge Cup at Wembley is something I dreamt of doing ever since being a kid so I fulfilled a lifelong dream there.

However, I would say if you ask some of the younger players it has probably lost some of its shine and they look at Super League instead as being the one they desire the most.

Taking a Cup round on the road to Newcastle or somewhere might spark things up to turn that around.

For us, I thought it was a really good win last night. It was a typical derby – a little bit scrappy, a little bit feisty but a very competitive game.

I thought our middles went great especially Joe Westerman who was outstanding out there for 80 minutes.

When we signed him last month, we weren’t originally even going to play him until this week so he could get fit and ready to go.

But he’s got called up early due to all the injuries and he’s really stood up.

Hopefully he can continue to maintain that level and consistency of performance and be the signing we thought he could be – a little gem picked up mid-season.