Adam Cuthbertson: Nines format could take Magic Weekend to another exciting level

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SEVEN DAYS ago I wrote about how much I like the Magic Weekend.

I still do, even after what happened to us last week.

Kallum Watkins.

Kallum Watkins.

It was a great event, though the result for us wasn’t brilliant.

I’ve been quite unfortunate to lose four times in a row at Magic and you might think my opinion is clouded by that, but it isn’t at all.

I was there as a spectator to watch Warrington against Wigan and I saw some of the other games on television.

The atmosphere and the arrangement of having it in a city like Newcastle is brilliant and great for the game.

Adam Cuthbertson.

Adam Cuthbertson.

But I think we have to look at how it needs to be structured in the future to help develop the game in the UK, as well as areas like the States and Canada where we are looking to expand.

Going forward, I think we have to possibly consider it as a break from Super League and maybe make it a competition in its own right on a round-robin basis.

There were 64,000 people there last weekend and the majority of them turned up on Saturday because that’s when the teams with the biggest following were playing – us, Wigan, Warrington, Saints and Cas.

To get more publicity and more fans and still keep it as a great weekend – and one that celebrates rugby league in the UK – I think it should become a nines weekend, with some of the top Championship clubs invited as well.

Wayne Bennett.

Wayne Bennett.

Nines has been tried in the past, but there’s never been a high-profile tournament over one specific weekend, with a sponsor behind it.

People will say coaches would rest players and send under-strength teams, but they won’t if there’s prize money up for grabs and a trophy for the winners. That’s why a sponsor would be important.

I played for Newcastle Knights in the Auckland Nines, under one of the best coaches there’s ever been – Wayne Bennett – and we took it seriously because there was a prize pool that clubs could benefit from.

All the top players went, everyone was up for it and we all wanted to be champions of it. I was there the first year and there were discussions with clubs about what teams they’d send, but everyone took it seriously.

The players themselves genuinely wanted to play in it because it’s an exciting brand of rugby league. It looks good on television and is great entertainment for the fans who turn up.

Over two days I think it can be a real celebration of rugby league. We’ve seen in T20 cricket, how big that can get.

Rugby union sevens is massive and I think nines is a great opportunity to do the same for our game.

We’ve got another big game on Saturday at Catalans. We have got a load of injuries, there’s no getting away from that, but we’ve been in this situation before and, hopefully, we’ve learned from it. I didn’t really realise how bad our injuries are until I saw how many boys we had at training this week. It’s a tough situation and I feel for Kallum [Watkins] who is out for the rest of the season, but that’s rugby league.

In 2016 we struggled to cope, but this time I’m excited to see how the young kids who come in get on.

We’ve trained really well this week and the boys stepping up have looked good. They aren’t nervous, they are jumping out of their skins to get out there and show what they can do.

We fly to France today and come back straight after tomorrow’s game. The good thing about that is it means I’ll be at Headingley on Sunday for the Women’s Super League game against Castleford.

It’s our first home game and the club have backed us by letting us play at Headingley so we want to put a good performance in.

Until our first defeat last week, against St Helens, we were top of the league and we could go back there if we win on Sunday.

The girls didn’t travel well last week, but we’ve had a good training session since and they are really keen to put it right. Cas are a good team, they are well-coached and unbeaten so it’s going to be a really interesting game.

It’s a chance for fans to come down and see what quality there is in the women’s game. We kick-off at 1pm and Rhinos’ physical disabilities team play Cas at 3pm, so it should be a great afternoon.

Stevie Ward.

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