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For many of us, Super League’s Magic Weekend is one of the year’s sporting highlights. All 12 Super Leagues competing in a full round of league fixtures in the same stadium over two days has seen record crowds flock to St James’ Park in the last two years with another installment due there in 2018. But, for all of the positives, one glaring negative is the organisation of the fixtures for the weekend.
Often, we see the big teams play each other or derby clashes – in some cases, like Wigan v St Helens or Hull FC v Hull KR, both apply. However, as the Magic round of fixtures is essentially an additional one, an element of controversy surrounds this. For the rest of the season, a team would play each of the other thirteen teams home and away, thus making it a pretty standard format of competition.
The Magic Weekend warps this as, for example, Leeds may play Castleford while St Helens face Widnes. One would expect St Helens to beat Widnes and, thus, close ground on the Rhinos and Tigers who are likely to be competing at the top.
Now, if it was a case of the RFL or Super League deciding the fixtures and that’s that, there would be an element of ‘just get on with it and play the matches.’ However, this week has seen the emergence of tweets about St Helens and Wigan requesting to not play each other – which, by the way, were granted by the powers that be – while Hull KR’s official twitter account stated that they asked to not play their Humber city rivals and Challenge Cup winners Hull FC at the St James’ Park showcase. That request was not granted which, perhaps, suggests a willingness to the bigger teams – especially as St Helens are playing 2017 strugglers Widnes Vikings.
Some argue that there needs to be a rethink as to how Magic Weekend fixtures are organised to ensure they are part of a fair and level competition if it is to stay, something which must happen as it is fast becoming one of rugby league’s flagship events alongside the Challenge Cup final and Grand Final.