Magic is on the move, but where should it go?

After a successful few years in Newcastle, it looks like the RFL are keen to move on. Andrew Riley looks at a couple of the places mentioned.

A lot of fans will tell you that Newcastle has been a roaring success as a venue for Magic Weekend, and, as someone who covered two seasons up there, I’d agree. As venues go, its a corker!

Easy access to the bars and restaurants of Newcastle, a fan zone that has developed into a great place to meet up and chat with fellow fans from other clubs, and of course Rugby AM.

Given that the event was derided by some at its inception, the RFL have worked wonders to turn it into one of the biggest events on the sports calendar.

For me its up there with the Grand final and the Challenge Cup final as an event in its own right.

Back in 2007 just over 59,000 watched 6 super league matches over two days in Cardiff, and hardly anyone outside of the sport thought it was going to be viable to carry on, but the following season, again, in the capital of the principality, over 63,000 hardy souls made the trip.

After two years, it was decided that a move North was needed & the event landed in Edinburgh for two seasons.

In 2011 however, it returned to Cardiff, but this time it was as the opening round of the season, and after criticism of the “seeding” of games, it was decided that local derbies would form the weekend.

The attendance was however down on the previous years, with just 60,214 heading to Wales in February.

Next up was Manchester, and the Etihad stadium, home of Manchester City, and the matches reverted to a mid season set of derbies, rather than a season opener, over the bank holiday weekend.

This, and the fantastic weather, saw the largest ever crowd of 63,716 attend.

The event was to stay in Manchester for the following two years, growing in stature and attendance each time, 64,552 was the highest ever for a Magic Weekend, while the Saturday attendance of 36,339 was the highest ever single-day figure until both records were surpassed the consequent year in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Looking forward though, after four very successful years in Newcastle, the RFL are looking to move the event again, with Manchester being a front runner, and rumoured to be part of the deal which will see the RFL installed as tenants at the nearby “Sports City”.

From a purely personal point of view, I’d happily see it return to Manchester, as its a simple tram ride there and back, but many would see it as a backwards step, and are keen on taking it abroad, with Toronto, Dublin and even New York being mentioned.

I’m all for expanding the game, but are we at risk of doing damage to the sport by rushing to outposts (after all, we still don’t have a South Wales super league team, nor a Scottish team) that don’t really “get” the sport as yet.

I’ll admit, the Canadians have taken to the sport, and the possibility of a team in the Big Apple (not Bramley, the other one!) is a mouthwatering prospect, but if we’re going abroad, then for me, Florida has to be the option.

Fans can combine their holiday with a bit of rugby league, get a decent tan and maybe even take in a baseball game.

The universities there have stadia that put some of our grounds to shame, so finding a venue to suit everyone shouldn’t be a problem.

There is already a league structure in Florida, so the appetite is certainly growing for the sport there, and a fair old ex-pat community as well.

For me though, the weekend SHOULD stay in Newcastle. Its just feels right.

Thunder playing on the Friday followed by a complete round of games. Rather than derbies though, I’d make the build up to the weekend all that much better by drawing the games out of a hat a couple of weeks before, and turning the draw into the sort of media event that the Challenge Cup has become.



Back over the pond

Come March, I’ll be taking a well earned break back in Fort Lauderdale.

While there, I’m hoping to try to catch a couple of Spring training games from my favourite American pastime, Baseball.

I’ve written in other posts of my following of the Tampa Bay Rays, but I’ll be spreading my wings this time, and going to see other clubs as they prepare for the 2018 season.

Ideally, I’d like to try and take in a couple of rugby league games as well, but as I will have Mrs R with me, a certain amount of touristy things will have to take precedent!

So dear reader, what spring training game in Florida should I go to? Personally, I’m thinking of a cross state drive to Fort Myers and the Twins and Red Sox.

It looks like a beautiful place to visit, not too touristy, but with plenty for a couple on their  holidays to do and see.

Schedules for the grapefruit league should be out soon, but Fort Myers is my first choice.

The rugby league World cup final takes place on the 2nd December, and its the hosts Australia who will take on England, who survived a scare in their semi final, narrowly beating Tonga, 18-20, earlier today.

Can England upset the bookies, and claim their fourth title?

My heart would love to see the squad fly back with the trophy, but my head says that Australia, under the leadership of one of the greatest players ever to grace the game, Mal Meninga, will once again emerge triumphant in Brisbane.

I’d like to wish all my colleagues who have made the trip to cover the tournament a safe and happy trip to the final and a safe journey home, especially to Gary Carter, who just two years ago was lying in a hospital bed fighting for his life after an unprovoked attack in London.

I’m certain I’ll see you all back at Salford, Leigh, Warrington and every other stadium once the new season starts.

Until the final…

Have a great week, whaterver and wherever you happen to be in the world.

Florida diary

What is it about the British and complaining?

I’ve just flown to Sanford Orlando and a lady on the bus to the plane (parked away from the terminal due to building work) was moaning that there were too many people on the bus hadn’t paid for “Premium “economy, then the plane was too far away for her liking, when we arrived at the plane, she complained it was too hot to be sat on the bus, despite the plane not being ready yet.

All the while, her daughter was taking up two seats on the bus with her case, whilst an elderly gentleman was standing, stoically looking after his wife who was sat down.

As soon as she could, she forced her way off the rear of the bus, and STILL managed to be complaining as we boarded.


You live in a world where you can fly 5000 miles, the plane is going nowhere until we’re all sat down, belted up and the captain is happy.

As it was, we took off 50 minutes later than scheduled, but so what?

I was more worried that the two cats I was being paid to get to Florida were onboard and happy than if the air conditioning on the transit bus was cold enough.

If that’s not enough, she moaned that last year, due to a change of plane, they only got £90 compensation, even if they did get the bigger plane back to the UK.

We complain about almost everything these days.


Is your life really that bad that people who didn’t pay an extra £251 are not welcome on a bus to the plane?

Or that standing on that bus for 8 minutes while the ground crew go over everything once more, just to be safe, is such a chore?

Oh well, just over an hour into the eight-hour flight, and I’m happily watching a movie and drinking a Brewdog punk IPA while waiting for lunch.

This Dreamliner is a lovely roomy bit of kit. First time on one, and hopefully not the last.

Well, Thomson, your lunch was lovely.

Seriously, I really enjoyed that roast chicken dinner. In the 2.5 hours since we took off, I’ve watched “The last king of Scotland “and am thinking about either “Four Lions” or “Inside Man” as a follow up.

Feel a bit wary about someone looking over my shoulder, spotting a movie about Jihadi ½ wits and us getting redirected to somewhere without an extradition treaty!

Sod it, Four Lions…

Anyway, after three days of what my kidneys seem to think is an excess of alcohol, my host & I drove the 200+ miles from Fort Lauderdale to Key West.

En route, he had to pop in and collect a few bits from his work in Parmetto Bay, and did that put the difference between those who have and hand not into stark relief.

As we pulled off the Florida turnpike into Miami, there was a bloke sleeping under a bridge, and as we got to the mall area, there were people begging along the road, yet less than a mile later, we were passing gated communities with private security and bronze lions guarding entrances.

As a human being, it was sad to see.

Once we’d made it to the end of the USA, it was well into triple figures heat wise, and after a good few hours walking and melting we fell into a bar called Viva for lunch.

A burger that was one of the better I tasted over the last ten days.

The rest of the break was spent either helping Lee set up his new home, or drinking, eating or walking about Middle River terrace soaking up the atmosphere.

Right up the street is the area of Wilton Manors. It’s predominantly a gay area, and boy, is it proud to be.

There are certain areas I was advised not to linger in, notably Sistrunk and anywhere straddling the I-95 highway, but given I was not driving, there was very little chance of me straying too far off the beaten track.

On the occasions I did wander about, I found the whole city to be lovely though.

Like all of the tourist coast, Fort Lauderdale has its plusses and minuses, but for me, the fact that it’s central allows you to visit Orlando, Miami, the Keys and the rest of the state with relative ease.

Like all of America, distance is the killer, so it’s better to have two of you driving, that way you can share the load, especially in the heat.

Next time, I’m going to be going with Mrs R, and I’ll probably stay in the Northern Lauderdale area as it’ a little cheaper on the old wallet, hotel wise.

That and I don’t want to overstay my welcome at Chez Massey…

Flying back, I was greeted with the news that those on the flight out 2 weeks prior had been delayed by close to 48 hours, and our return was delayed due to what was described by a Tui staff member as a “bird strike”.

She was assuring passengers that they would be on a 787-9 dreamliner, as they had been messed about earlier, only for us all to get to check in to be told that our plane had been downgraded to the smaller 787-8

This did not go down well.

Now, I didn’t get the email from Tui that those on holiday with the firm had been sent telling them of a two-hour delay, perhaps because flight only passengers are not considered to be worth the effort, but either way, once onboard, we were told by the flight crew the delay was due to congestion at Manchester airport earlier in the day and not a broken window…

The general feeling was that we would rather have been told the truth, rather than fed a lie.

It did seem very convenient that the staff member had a photo of the bird strike on her mobile phone though.

The staff on the flight were the sullenest bunch I’ve ever flown with, and to have the UK mumbling champion onboard to practice using the tannoy didn’t help matters.

The meal was nowhere near as good as the one on the flight out. Some chicken in a mustard sauce concoction and very dry bread roll.

Awful does not do the description justice.

Next time, I’ll probably fly with another airline and pay a little more, and certainly won’t fly in or out of Sanford.

It may have its tag line of “Safer, Faster, Better.” But it’s a dilapidated old airport, miles away from anywhere.

If, like me, you are hoping to travel to see sport, particurlaly rugby league, then its much better to arrive at Orlando international, Miami or Lauderdale itself and make life easier, travel wise.

Tui as a company need to work on its customer interaction.

I did approach Tui for a response, but sadly, they don’t really care about how they treat passengers.