A new concept to the NRL, inspired from their overseas counterpart in the Super League, has brought their very own Magic Round to the competition with an expectation of excitement and captivating rugby league. I was lucky enough to be in the crowd at this alluring event in round nine viewing up to five matches with plenty on the line for all clubs involved. The question many will have that were not able to make the trip to Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane over the weekend is whether or not the Magic Round is worth it, and the experience that is tied to it with all eight matches being at one venue. Here is my overview in taking part in this anticipated concept.
What is the Magic Round?
The overview of what this event was one venue hosting all eight NRL fixtures across the round, allowing fans to see multiple matches with each ticket they purchased. Magic Round started on Thursday night, kicking off the festivities with a single match with ticket sales going towards charity; the delivery of the footy continued with two matches on the Friday before the biggest day of the event on Saturday featuring the usual three fixtures that the NRL sees each week, finally it finished with the two matches on Sunday afternoon to round out the weekend.
Witnessing the Magic
My experience of the Magic Round started with a quick bus ride into the stadium on the Friday night before the Wests Tigers faced off against the Penrith Panthers. Impressions of the set-up around the stadium was a cheerful festival-like vibe with plenty of marquees and tents that had promotional activities or outlets to get your club’s merchandise. As I made my way to the northern stand of Suncorp Stadium it was apparent early on that people had made the trip up from all over the country with many team’s colours on display by ticketholders – even when their team had not yet featured they still wore their side’s gear.
Just like any attendance at Suncorp, it was hard not to be excited with the ability to see all of the action with the colosseum-like seating that the stadium provides which was another great factor into why the event suited Brisbane. After the first day had wrapped up after the Manly Sea Eagles and Brisbane Broncos clash it was time to back up on Saturday to see three matches in close concession; now any footy fanatic can sit through this amount of matches however the casual spectators who may only have come to see their side were hard pressed to sit through until the end but with the help of entertainment between the halves of matches and each fixture it made this easier for those people.
It became apparent once the final whistle had gone on what was my last live viewing of the Magic Round that it was a successful event that had 134,677 people enjoying not only their own side in the round but doing so with other teams play against one another, while enjoying the festival atmosphere that many were hoping to live through while attending.
Fixes and Forward Thinking
Of course, with any new event to given sporting competitions, there is room for improvement or slight fixes that could’ve made for the overall experience to be better. Let’s take a look at what could be reworked for the Magic Round at Suncorp Stadium in 2020.
The scheduling of this event was held in round nine of the NRL competition which was a boost to the viewing of the games with much of the early hype of the opening rounds of the season slowing, however, many team’s form was still up in the air and alterations to sides were seen as the injuries had piled from the weeks before this, unfortunately, saw many stars not feature in the round which could have been minimised earlier in the season. Another point to this was the length of the round from Thursday to Sunday which seemed like it could’ve been shortened with the Thursday fixture being moved to the Sunday and in turn having two days with three games and bigger crowds, less spread of the matches would also potentially result in better ground conditions with it less likely to hold up over four days.
Along with the timing of which round the Magic was held on, there was a question to be asked about some of the matchups that featured on what was a new concept. Many sides that clashed over the weekend featured little to no rivalries or past fixtures that had seen the teams have outstanding close battles with plenty of feeling. Examples of games that were somewhat questionable during this first iteration were Titans playing Sharks and Rabbitohs versing Cowboys; these matches featured a side in the top 8 before the round against a team in the bottom section with no real rivalry either. A part that could be adjusted to see more sides playing one another with a bit of past history that could raise the stakes.
Here is an example for future Magic round fixtures:
Friday night (6pm): Tigers v Panthers
Friday night (8pm): Broncos v Cowboys
Saturday afternoon (3pm): Titans v Warriors
Saturday night (5:30pm): Dragons v Knights
Saturday night (7:30pm): Roosters v Sharks
Sunday afternoon (2pm): Sea Eagles v Bulldogs
Sunday afternoon (4pm): Raiders v Eels
Sunday night (6pm): Storm v Rabbitohs
These matches allow for more captivating viewing with a few old and new rivalries while having just general tough matchups that would’ve been predicted before the season had started this time around. Making the schedule tighter and improving the lineup of games across the weekend with more attention to when teams play over the course of it.
The 2019 Magic Round was an emphatic experience with many enjoyable moments and close matches that had myself and others over the weekend wanting to come back for the next instalment. The knowledge of how this event went now will help improve it in the areas that it was weakest with the concept being a fantastic idea it will come down to the reworks to make the round even more magical than the last. No doubt people from across the nation will gather again to see their sides in Brisbane once again, having seen how successful and promising this type of event has and will become.