Carl Ablett: Is the Magic Weekend concept really growing the game?

St James' Park, Newcastle.
St James' Park, Newcastle.
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I THINK we have to ask what it is we want from Magic Weekend?

I enjoy the concept, it’s been around a while now and I am looking forward to going up to Newcastle for a third time on Sunday.

Brian McDermott and Kevin Sinfield with the Challenge Cup at Wembley following Leeds Rhinos' victory over Hull KR.

Brian McDermott and Kevin Sinfield with the Challenge Cup at Wembley following Leeds Rhinos' victory over Hull KR.

But when it comes to discussing where it should be in 2018 and onwards we should really make sure it is something we need.

There is a duty of care for players and given the amount of games we play – we have another ‘Easter’ coming up soon where we play twice in four days – do we really need this extra fixture?

Players will always play and back-up; they’ll say it’s not an issue as it’s their job and they will do it, come what may.

But there has to be a reason for it. Are we trying to grow the game and get the sport to places where it’s not been before, building it in different areas?

Australia's Greg Inglis.

Australia's Greg Inglis.

Newcastle has been great and it’s always good, as players, to play in new stadiums especially the big football ones like St James’ Park and the Etihad.

But are we getting what we want from taking Magic to these places?

Are many Newcastle people buying tickets this year and are we getting into the schools around there or are we just getting fans from Leeds, Cas and the rest to spend more money by travelling up, booking hotels and buying food and drink?

If we’re not expanding up there then you have to ask why are we doing it?

There’s been talk about where it might go next but there’s also been talk about moving the Challenge Cup final from Wembley which I’d be 100 per cent against.

I can’t understand that at all. Growing up, Wembley was always the place everyone wanted to play and that has not changed.

I’ve been lucky enough to play there in both the old and new stadium.

Obviously, the new Wembley is a different feeling – it’s a brand new stadium and it needs time to build its own history over the next 40, 50 or 60 years.

The Challenge Cup final needs to be at Wembley; it’s the national stadium, the No1 venue in our sport and we have to have this spectacle there.

Having won at Wembley and won the Grand Final at Old Trafford, too, they are very different experiences but both amazing in their own way and you cannot entertain the idea of shifting the Challenge Cup final.

I genuinely don’t understand why they would. It’s a big no-no from me. It would be just silly. The Challenge Cup is still bigger than Magic, too, no matter what might be said. Attendances prove that.

We had more than 80,000 against Hull KR two years ago and it’s always been at least 75,000 since it went back to the new Wembley in 2007.

We’ve got Cas on Sunday night as the last game of Magic and I guess it is all set for a great game.

What they did at the weekend against Saints typified their season so far; they have really been able to put teams to the sword like that and heaped points on opponents.

They are a dangerous team that can do that (win 53-10). We’ve been steadily building, though. We’ve not been magnificent but have ground out some decent wins and decent displays.

We’re quite happy with our form but this will be a big test on Sunday especially defensively and we’re looking forward to it.

Meanwhile, I saw this week that Greg Inglis has checked himself into a mental health clinic after struggling lately.

Everyone wishes him well and – having just had Mental Health Awareness Week – the fact he has been able to do that sends a great message to others who may need help.

Greg Inglis is one of the best players in the world, right up in the top echelon, is well-paid and well known and many people would think he wouldn’t have any issues whatsoever.

But this shows again that mental health problems can affect anybody and him getting it out there, admitting he needs help, will help show it is not a sign of weakness and people can talk about their issues.

It’s important they do. In rugby league, things have improved a lot in terms of the services now available whether it be workshops run by the RFL, the clubs themselves, or organisations like Sporting Chance.

Probably 20 years ago, players wouldn’t talk about their emotions to each other but, thankfully, the culture has changed now and players are talking about issues and getting help if they need it.

Liam Sutcliffe.

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