Magic Weekend is providing silver lining for Newcastle
FOR the German students on the guided tour around St James' Park yesterday, it must have been a little confusing seeing a gleaming trophy in the middle of Newcastle United's pitch.
Had they not just been relegated from the Premier League? Do English sides actually win silverware for dropping out of the division?
“That’s rugby league’s Super League trophy,” a bystander explained. “All 12 teams come here and play this weekend.”
The response probably answered their question before bringing about a whole new state of perplexion: six games in one place over two days?
It is that time of year again and Magic Weekend rolls into Newcastle for a second season running. The annual ‘on the road’ extra round of fixtures is now in its 10th staging since its 2007 inauguration in Cardiff with Edinburgh and Manchester being other hosts in the interim.
The only reason it was not staged at Manchester City again last year was because the Etihad Stadium was undergoing construction work but, such was the success in Newcastle – the six-game extravaganza boosted the local economy by around £4.2m – that its city council was quick to extend the agreement and hopes to do so again in 2017.
Last season saw a best aggregate crowd of 67,788 and, typically, organisers are anticipating another increase.
What may help floating fans is the way the fixtures have landed this season.
When it was announced, as far back as last October, that Wakefield Trinity against Catalans would be Sunday’s first game at 1pm - a “graveyard slot” - it was understandable. The Yorkshire club finished bottom last season while the French side bring only a handful of supporters.
However, enthused Wakefield are currently one of the competition’s form sides having just beaten leaders Warrington Wolves, winning eight from nine games.
Catalans, meanwhile, are similarly buoyant; joint-top, playing with real swagger and hinting they could finally be title contenders, so this match-up is suddenly and arguably the most intriguing of them all.
The Hull FC v Hull KR derby rounds things off on the Sunday evening, Huddersfield Giants v St Helens in between being an interesting one, while Salford v Widnes, Castleford v Warrington and Leeds v Wigan is Saturday’s line-up.