This weekend see’s Super League clubs take an entire round of games to one stadium, Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City.
The concept was born as a way to try and open up expansion markets in Wales and Scotland. The Rugby Football League would take over a major stadium for one weekend and put on a show in a new market. With Super League fans using Magic Weekend as an opportunity to travel to an away game for a weekend, it seemed to work alright.
Unfortunately, as happens in Rugby League in Great Britain, mismanagement let to the old “This is our northern game, no one else likes it, bring it back” attitude setting in and all of a sudden this great way to try and open up new markets for Super League is now played in Manchester every year.
The idea of playing an entire round of NRL football at one stadium gets thrown up from time to time. It is short sighted and wouldn’t work. The NRL doesn’t need concepts like this in established markets, and with 16 teams covering such a huge geographical area, it would be impossible to get a decent “bang for your buck” in playing 8 games of football at any one stadium.
I do wonder though, if you expanded the concept, could Magic Weekend work in the National Rugby League as a shock and awe tactic in certain markets?
Imagine playing an entire round of the National Rugby League across New Zealand. Playing 8 games across all of New Zealand and using it as a way to saturate the country with Rugby League action once a year.
It would be the perfect way to kick off a season in which New Zealand received a second NRL club. I could see the season kicking off with the a new New Zealand based franchise playing against the previous seasons Grand Final winners, and the round ending with the New Zealand Warriors playing the team that lost the previous seasons Grand Final.
In between you would have NRL clubs playing games in as many of New Zealands regional centers as possible, with teams running coaching clinics and generally promoting Rugby League.
The biggest obsticle would be how you could make it work for television.
It would take a lot of effort from the games broadcasters to cover all of the games from New Zealand. The time difference would also be an issue as New Zealand is two hours ahead of Australia during Australian EDST. That means a game in New Zealand that kicks off at 8pm would be kicking off at 6pm in Australia. That might be easy for Fox Sports to accommodate, but there is no way in the world Channel 9 would be willing to go with anything but delayed coverage.
New Zealand hasn’t got a shortage or Stadiums you could use. I’ve listed the stadiums I’d look to play at below. I’ve listed 8 stadiums to cover the 8 games we currently have in an NRL round. Obviously if there were expansion clubs added to the competition we would end up with an extra game. In that case I’d probably look to play two games in Auckland, possibly a double header at Eden Park.
Eden Park – Auckland
Forsyth Barr Stadium – Dunedin
Westpac Stadium – Wellington
Rugby League Park – Christchurch
Waikato Stadium – Hamilton
McLean Park – Napier
Rugby Park Stadium – Invercargill
Trafalgar Park – Nelson
As a marketing tool it would be fantastic for Rugby League. If the NRL played their cards right it would boost playing numbers in New Zealand and really build a base for the game to grow off of.
It is a huge commitment though. It would not only effect television contracts but also season tickets for Australian based teams. I do think it would be worth it in the long run though, especially if it was used as a kickoff for a second New Zealand based NRL team.
From there, who knows, we could see a soft kickoff to the NRL season where over two weeks you saw a split round kick off in a similar way in Great Britain!