The rugby league community was divided on whether the NRL’s inaugural magic round concept at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane would be a success.
There were concerns about crowd numbers, if the condition of the ground can withstand eight back-to-back games and general interest.
The concept was borrowed from the English Super League and while it had proven to be a success across the pond, fans in Australia still had their reservations as to whether the NRL could pull it off here.
Now, with the weekend run and done, we can see that all concerns were blown out of the water. Almost 135,000 fans filed through the gates over the four days, many of whom travelled interstate as well as from other countries including New Zealand and the UK.
There was a festival-like atmosphere in and around the ground, jerseys from all 16 clubs being worn at any given game and all over the city.
Fans not only got to see their team perform, they had the pleasure of watching some of the game’s superstars live in action such as Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Latrell Mitchell, Damian Cook, Jason Taumalolo, Kayln Ponga and many more.
It was reported by the NRL that approximately 10,000 children were engaged over the four days through schools and junior club visits by NRL players and there were several other initiatives to promote to the game.
The ground, although well worn, held up quite well after eight games. Despite the large injury toll, many of those injuries can’t be attributed to the pitch conditions.
It was a big financial win for the eight clubs who had to move their home game, earning up to five times more than what they would have made had they played at home.
The Queensland government reportedly generated $20 million from magic round, a financial windfall after they paid $2.1 million per year for 2019 and 2020 to host the event.
They, as well as other states and perhaps other countries, will likely enter a bidding war to host the event in the future.
Holding the inaugural magic round in Brisbane was always a safe bet for the NRL and on the back of its success, the concept will continue to be a huge celebration of rugby league for years to come.
The NRL should look to see which areas of the concept can improve, including doing a deal with Channel 9 to scrap the Thursday night game, perhaps look at a long weekend with a Monday public holiday and strategies to encourage even more fans to attend.
If next year’s event proves to be a bigger and better spectacle than this year, it will be a huge marketing tool for the NRL to promote the game, should they look to take magic round to possible expansion areas such as Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne or New Zealand.