Leeds Rhinos ace Danny McGuire’s view from the dressing room
I AM a fan of the Magic Weekend and have been ever since it started back in 2007.
I think everybody remembers our first game, in Cardiff, when Kev Sinfield’s penalty hit the crossbar and Jordan Tansey followed up to score after the hooter had sounded.
I don’t suppose Bradford would agree, but that probably gave Magic the launchpad it needed. It created a massive talking point and loads of publicity, which our sport lacks sometimes.
Something always seems to happen at a Magic Weekend and I see it as a good way to raise rugby league’s profile and get the code noticed.
It has come at just the right time in the season, from a player’s point of view. It is the 13th game in a 27-round campaign and by this time of the year you tend to be if not in a rut, then certainly into a routine.
You are used to preparing every week to go to grounds you’ve visited dozens of times before and it is good to have something which freshens everybody up a bit and gives you a break from the norm.
It is something to look forward to and a unique concept to rugby league, which I think a lot of other sports would be envious of.
It is good to have fans of so many different clubs together in one place, there never seems to be any bother and it is a fantastic showcase for our sport with every game being covered live on Sky Sports.
Some players never get a chance to play in semi-finals or finals, so it is a great opportunity for them to play on a big stage, in front of a larger than usual crowd, in a fabulous stadium.
I know there’s only two points up for grabs, but it does feel a bit bigger than a normal league fixture. It is more like playing in a semi or a final and I think that brings out the best in players.
Cardiff and Edinburgh were good places to play, but the Etihad is a great venue for Magic and hopefully there will be a record crowd this year. I don’t think 35,000 per day is too much to aim for.
The only problem I have with it is the fixtures. We played Wigan two weeks ago, Wakefield and Cas met at Easter and there’s a danger the Hull derby is going to get watered down due to the number of times they play each other.
I know the RFL like to have derbies and big matches, like us against Wigan and Saints-Warrington, but maybe a seeding system or a draw would be fairer.
Leeds against Wigan is a huge fixture in any circumstances and I imagine Saturday’s clash will be one of the games of the weekend, especially if it’s anything like the match 14 days ago.
We are playing well and Wigan have a few injuries and players missing, so we will probably be favourites, but we aren’t focusing too much on them.
We’ve done our homework and had a look at footage of them, but we are mainly concentrating on what we need to do. We are going well at the moment, but we want to fix a few things up and keep improving and if we do that we have got a great chance of staying at the top of the table, which is where we want to be.
IT’S DISAPPOINTING Ben Jones-Bishop will be leaving us at the end of this season.
I would have loved him to stay at Leeds because he is a great player, a great lad and a good friend. He is popular in the squad, we all get on well with him and we know what he can do on the field.
As a team you go through a lot together so there’s a bond between players and it is always a shame when that is broken, but we all understand it is the nature of the business.
We will definitely miss Bish, on and off the field, but the rest of the boys understand the situation and when he goes he will leave with everyone’s best wishes.
I don’t know what was said when Bish had discussions with Leeds, but he hasn’t played regularly this year and of course he wants to be in the team every week.
It is a shame to lose a local lad who has been at the club all the way through from the academy and who has a real pride in the shirt, but sometimes these things happen.
He has signed a three-year contract with Salford and he is going to be one of their star players, so nobody could blame him for taking that opportunity.
Getting Bish on a deal like that is a good bit of business for Salford and I am sure he will be a big success for them.
When he has come into the side this season he has shown what he’s capable of, like last week when he scored two tries in our win at Cas.
I don’t think the fact he has been in and out of the team this season is a reflection on Bish. All our outside-backs have been in great form and I think Brian McDermott would admit selecting who is going to be on the teamsheet from one to five has been the toughest part of his job.
Bish remains part of our squad until the autumn and he’ll still be a valued member. Fans don’t see what goes on behind the scenes, but he has been fantastic this year. There has been no sulking, his work ethic has been outstanding in training and when he has got a chance he has taken it.
I know he will want to go out on a high and there’s no danger of Bish putting his cue on the rack and waiting until the end of his contract.
It only takes an injury or one loss of form for him to be in the team on a regular basis and when he does get called on there’s no doubt he will be giving his all, as he always does.
WE HAD a visit from Chris Rostron this week, who is involved in running the charity Rugby League Cares.
Chris, who used to work for Leeds’ Foundation, gave us a talk on what RL Cares does and by the end of it the entire squad had signed up as members.
This fantastic charity has only been going for 18 months.
From what Chris, pictured, was saying, it covers a lot of ground and supports people and clubs involved at all levels of the game, from community up to Super League.
Money goes to help clubs in various ways – for example if they’ve had a vandalism problem – and players in need are given financial and practical support.
Rugby League Cares looks after anyone who is seriously injured playing the game and also provides grants, for example, to help players if they want to work on something for when they hang up their boots. It also helps support the development of the game and various heritage projects. so it’s a really worthwhile cause.
I’d urge anyone to find out more about RL Cares and if possible sign up as a member. Have a look at the charity’s website for full information.