The Dacia Magic Weekend is an annual event showcasing the sport of Rugby League. A full round of six matches between the twelve super league teams takes place in one stadium.
We have been attending a few sporting events this year. When we were asked if we wanted to go along to the Dacia Magic Weekend we jumped at the chance. My husband and son are great sports fans and I was looking forward to seeing St James Park.
This year was the eleventh year of the Magic weekend. It is the third consecutive year its been in Newcastle Upon Tyne. Over its history Newcastle holds the records for the biggest attendances. This is not surprising, Geordies are well known for their hospitality. St James Park has a great location in the centre of the city and is easy to get to on public transport. The seating capacity of over 52,000 ensures there is plenty of room for all the fans.
Anyone who lives in Newcastle will be aware that St James Park plays a big part in the city. Newcastle fans are some of the most loyal and passionate football fans. If you are ever in town during the match you can hear this. The sound of the fans singing can be heard ringing round the city. It is odd that my first visit to St James Park was to see rugby rather than football. My husband and son regularly go to matches but I have never been. On our way to the Heroes Club I took the opportunity to look around the stadium. Plenty of the history of Newcastle United is on display in the ground. Pictures of players past and present adorn the walls. There are also cabinets displaying the trophies we have won. You can learn more of the history of the Toon Army with old newspaper cuttings and memorabilia from the past. You really get a sense of the pride that Geordies have in their team.
Arriving at the Heroes Club we got our event passes along with a token for a free drink which was a nice touch. The room is light and airy with a contemporary feel. Different types of seating are available, from tables and chairs to bar stools and sofas. The staff were welcoming and friendly. They were circulating the room with food from a grazing menu. These were small bowls of food which was really tasty. Nothing was too much bother for the staff. My son managed to tighten his wristband so tight that it was hurting his wrist. They found a knife to cut it off and a replacement band. As it got nearer the time for the first match anticipation rose. We went into the stadium to find our seats.
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Over the Magic Weekend there are six matches between the twelve super league teams. The super league is rugby leagues equivalent to the premier league in football. Three matches take place on the Saturday and three on the Sunday. You can choose to attend one match, the full day or for the full weekend. Walking into the stadium there was a party atmosphere. Fans were ready to support their teams, wearing their colours or fancy dress. There was a great mix of fans, families and couples.
Cheerleaders were helping build anticipation as the team banners were unfurled. The teams then ran onto the pitch and it was game on. The pace was fast and furious and the players really do slam into each other with force. Watching the game live makes the skill of the players much more obvious and it is more exciting than it is on tv. In the crowd giant foam hands and try cards were waving in excitement. Television screens around the stadium let you see replays of the action. They also confirm when a try is scored. The fans also let you know that as they cheered on their teams.
There was entertainment before the matches and during half time too. Before the game there was a space hopper derby involving some of the fans. A giant tin of mushy peas was overseeing the game as well as some cheerleaders. During half time children from the SkyTry programme got a chance to play in St James Park. There was always something going on.
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In between the matches we went to have a look around the fanzone. This was on the road outside the stadium and downstairs near the St James Park Metro station. There were plentiful food and drink facilities as well as opportunities to buy merchandise. A Fan Zone stage was set up and player interviews were taking place here. You could also get your photo taken with the Super League trophy and the England team.
There were plenty of other fun activities in the fanzone. You could test your skills on the Batak Machine or take part in a rugby passing, High Striker or rodeo rugby ball games. Newcastle Thunder, one of the local rugby league teams, also had merchandise on sale. There was certainly plenty to try.
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Castleford Tigers strip features their fighting tigers. Leigh Centurions have a magic themed strip. Huddersfield Giants strip features the logos of the Giants 16 community clubs. It also has a tribute to Ronan Costello, a youth prospect who died playing the game he loved. Salford Red Devils strip is raising awareness for State of Mind. This is a charity that works for mental health issues in sport. St Helens have a multicoloured jigsaw design to raise awareness of autism.
The most striking strip was Widnes Vikings. Their strip features Newcastle Stripes and was sponsored by the Bobby Robson foundation. Bobby Robson was a much loved Newcastle manager who sadly died of cancer. The Bobby Robson foundation is a charity which raises money to fund the early detection and treatment of cancer. Over the past three years Widnes Vikings have raised over £80,000 for this cause. The strip was the smartest one there.
Saturday May 20th
Sunday May 21st
Visiting the Magic Weekend in Newcastle was a really enjoyable experience. It is a really family friendly event and even if you do not know much about rugby you will enjoy it. The atmosphere is really friendly and it feels like everyone is taking part in a big party. Watching the matches themselves is a thrilling experience and makes you really appreciate the game. I hope the Magic Weekend comes back to Newcastle next year so we can enjoy it again.
We were guests for the Magic Weekend but my opinions are honest and my own.