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Opinion

Why Magic Round belongs anywhere but Sydney

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Expert
10th May, 2022
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For those rugby league fans lucky enough to be attending Magic Round this weekend, there seems to be an extra spring in their step.

Despite parts of Queensland expecting 400 millimetres of rain over the next couple of days, it’s expected to ease by Friday ahead of a sold-out Saturday triple-header with much anticipation ahead for the weekend.

To date, Magic Round has proved to be a success, so it comes as a surprise to me that there are some people in rugby league who want it changed or who simply can’t leave it alone.

Last week The Australian reported that “Magic Round is coming to the Harbour City, it’s just a matter of how soon”.

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In my view, having Magic Round in Sydney is an utterly ridiculous idea. Not only do I think it’s ridiculous, but I don’t think it would work.

Magic Round was initially created to attract more footy fans and give fans the opportunity to watch teams that they would not usually get the chance to watch.

So why would you move the concept to a state that has over 100 rugby league games played in it per year.

NRL fan in empty stadium.

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

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No matter which team you support, if you live in Sydney, it’s likely that you will get to watch your team live on several occasions.

That’s simply not the case if you live in Brisbane.

Moving the event to Sydney also shows a misunderstanding of what makes the event in Brisbane so unique.

In Brisbane, Suncorp Stadium provides an exceptional viewing experience. Much like CommBank Stadium, the steepness of the seating means that no matter where you sit, you have a good view.

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Attending a match at a full Suncorp Stadium is on everyone’s rugby league bucket list.

Additionally, the stadium is central. It is easy to get to and the walk down Caxton Street not only creates atmosphere, but means that there are many places for people to eat and celebrate before and after the games.

Therein you have a perfect match between a quality stadium and the infrastructure around it to support the people attending.

Sydney does not have this anywhere.

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An Eels fan cheers

(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

CommBank Stadium provides an exceptional viewing experience, but isn’t big enough to host a Magic Round.

Accor Stadium does not provide an exceptional viewing experience and is in the middle of nowhere, with not enough pubs or restaurants to sustain a Magic Round-type event.

Public transport is also really challenging unless you are coming directly from the city.

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The new Sydney Football Stadium may be an option, but again I question whether there are enough amenities to sustain the type of crowd you would be hoping to get at a Magic Round.

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Additionally, from a fairness perspective, Sydney gets plenty of opportunity for premier events. The grand final is hosted in Sydney every year, as is at least one State of Origin game.

I am not against the idea of moving Magic Round.

But if it was created to attract more fans and give more people the opportunity to watch rugby league, perhaps it could be played somewhere that fits that purpose.

Use it as an opportunity to grow the game or reach new audiences. One option may be Adelaide.

Adelaide Oval

(Photo by Mark Brake – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

While the Adelaide Oval is not the best place to watch rugby league, the area behind the oval means there is an opportunity to create atmosphere and give people a place to gather before and after the games.

This has been successfully done by Cricket Australia when the Adelaide Test is held.

Potentially it could also be held in New Zealand.

There are conversations currently happening about a second New Zealand team and with the Warriors being impacted by COVID so significantly over the last two years, it might be a fitting reward for all the footy fans based in New Zealand.

I do not see Melbourne as an option as it is unlikely that you could find a weekend without any AFL being played at the MCG.

For a sport that claims to be national, there seems to be a myopic focus on footy fans from Sydney who not only get more than their fair share of rugby league games, but then rarely bother to show up when they get that opportunity.

I would almost go as far as saying that Magic Round belongs anywhere but the Harbour City.

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