Whats your State of Mind?

As the State of Mind charity prepares to take over the Super League for an entire round, Andrew Riley went along to the AJ Bell stadium in Salford to see what the charity does and how you can be part of a world record attempt this coming Wednesday…

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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.

 

How do you promote a sport full of power and passion?

By not bothering to show any of the sport itself according to the new RFL Super League 2018 launch video.

Recently, the RFL marketing department have managed to get a couple of things spot on. The new OuRLeague app is fantastic. Superb content, really engaging and easy to use. During the World Cup it became the go to app for info on England and what the players were up to.

Then we get the 2018 launch video…

We know that professional rugby league players are supremely fit. We also know that the Brownlee brothers are superb athletes as well.

What we dont see is any reason for watching the sport when the season starts in just over a week.

Where are the big hits, the jinking runs through defences, the offloads and the magic? Apparently, the public dont need to see the skill of the players, but images of them running up and down in the snow tell you all you need to know about the lack of imagination shown by the RFL marketing department.

The RFL have some superb staff, but marketing needs a shake up.

Why advertise along the M62?

You’re playing into the hands of those who look down their noses at the sport and call it parochial!

Advertise along the M6 and the M1. It’s a summer sport, entice people heading to Bridlington, Scarborough, Blackpool and the Lake district to take in a game, not those who already know where games are played.

What does this video tell anyone who accidentally happens upon it about the game these athletes play?

Nothing…

I appreciate that there is an air of change at Red Hall and Media City with Nigel Wood leaving, but if we allow the game to continue to stagnate at every level, which is what we are in danger of doing if we don’t look for a candidate for his position from outside of the sport, we are in danger of the sport as a whole dying.

Thats not just my view, but one given to me by one of the most respected writers on the sport. As it was a private conversation, I’m not going to name him here, but it shows just how far those who write about the sport feel the game and it’s leadership have sunk.

Indeed, he felt that by the time of the 2025 World Cup, the UK version of the game may well be entirely amateur.

Hull KR edge past Leigh in thriller at the Village

Hull KR had the luck of the devil in a close fought win over Leigh Centurions today, with the referee AND video referee missing what looked like a knock on* in the build up to their match winning try by Captain Shaun Lunt.

In an edgy encounter, it was the home side who struck first, Daniel Mortimer finding his way through a dogged Rovers defence, Josh Drinkwater adding the extras, before Rovers hit back on the half hour mark, Lunt scoring the first of his pair, converted by Jamie Ellis.

The home side went into the break with a two point lead, thanks to a penalty for holding down, which Drinkwater dispatched.

If the first half had been about flowing and attacking rugby, with defences winning the key battles, then the second half was to follow a similar pattern.

It was to be nearly 10 minutes in to the second half before either side would trouble the scoreboard again, Drinkwater slipping over a penalty after Rovers Lee Jewitt decided to mess about at the play of the ball.

As we approached the hour mark, Rovers drew level, after Ryan Shaw had his effort set upstairs to video referee James Child. Ellis accurate adding the extras and the visitors were in front, 10-12.

Ellis added a penalty to extend the Robins lead, before the home side struck back with a try from Atilia Vea, and a Drinkwater conversion that went in off the upright, saw Leigh hit the front again.

With just five minutes left on the clock came the moment that, as Leigh head coach Neil Jukes put it, could cost someone their job, as Rovers appeared to knock on at the play of the ball, only for Lunt to squeeze over for his second of the game.

Again, it was sent to the video referee, who somehow missed the knock on by Nick Scruton and went with the on field decision of try and Rovers winning score, 16-20 when the final whistle went.

Leigh coach Neil Jukes:

Hull KR coach Tim Sheens:

 

Leigh (8) 16
Tries: Mortimer, Vea Goals: Drinkwater 4
Hull KR (6) 20
Tries: Lunt 2, Shaw Goals: Ellis 4

Leigh: McNally; Dawson, Fleming, Langi, Higson; Mortimer, Drinkwater; Hansen, Higham, Maria, Vea, Paterson, Burr.

Replacements: Hood, Richards, Tickle, Stewart.

Hull KR: Moss; Carney, Blair, Hefernan, Shaw; Marsh, Ellis; Scruton, Lawler, Jewitt, Addy, Clarkson, Kavanagh.

Replacements: Lunt, Greenwood, Atkin, Masoe.

Referee: Jack Smith

*The video referee is not allowed to look at the play of the ball when a decision is referred to him. Thank you Rod Studd for letting me know.