The Magic Round in Brisbane was a superb initiative and a wonderful success for the game.
Thousands of locals along with visitors from around Queensland and interstate flocked to Brisbane for a great weekend of rugby league entertainment – 134,677 fans, to be exact.
It is big events like this that are a celebration of and a showcase for the game of rugby league. The Magic Round has now joined the likes of State of Origin, the NRL grand final and the traditional Anzac Day clash as annual events that display everything good in the Greatest Game of All.
Immediately following the successful weekend in Brisbane, there were calls – almost warnings – for Sydney to keep its hands off the Magic Round. The concept is the property of Brisbane and Queensland – their initiative and their brainchild, although it is a concept that the Super League has been using for years.
Brisbane can have their Magic Round. Sydney can have its own blockbuster round of matches at the ANZ Stadium over the Easter long weekend. The NRL can brand it the Easter Showdown.
A new tradition can be born. Just imagine the current traditional Good Friday and Easter Monday clashes played out across the Easter long weekend, along with matches on Easter Saturday and Sunday, all at Homebush? The NRL can also add an annual Test match between the Jillaroos and the Kiwi Ferns to the program as well.
During Australia’s Super League era, the code’s slogan was ‘making the big game bigger’. Events like this one live up to that old idiom. Considering that there are large crowds of people already out at the Sydney Showground across the Easter long weekend, it would make sense to bring the NRL to where the people are.
The Easter Show is traditionally an event where, besides rural communities bringing farm life to the city for ten days, products are marketed and sampled. Keeping with this theme, rugby league can also have that same opportunity to market its outstanding product to tens of thousands of people, many of whom may never have sampled live NRL.
This obviously cannot happen, though, for several years while the ANZ Stadium gets its much-needed redevelopment. Following the upgrade, ANZ Stadium will be the greatest rectangular stadium in the country – a new showpiece that deserves marquee events. Rugby league deserves events that pack out stadiums.
There are not many events in Sydney that get people out of their suburbs. The Easter Show is one of those few events that attract visits from Greater Western Sydney, the Sutherland and the Northern Beaches alike.
If the NRL, the NSW government and the Royal Agricultural Society can come together and put in place the arrangements to make this event happen, a big new tradition can be born.