Talking RL: Have fans fallen out of love with the Magic Weekend?

Players on the Anfield pitch
Players on the Anfield pitch

What is the point of the Magic Weekend?

It's a question that will inevitably be asked if, as Super League predict, there is a record low crowd over Anfield.

They are hoping for 50,000 over the two days, which would be a big drop on the 64,000-68,000 mark they attracted over the four years at previous hosts, Newcastle.

This year's event doesn't seem to hold the same sparkle.

Maybe it's because of the timing - a week after the Nou Camp adventure.

Maybe it's the venue. Anfield has its appeal, of course, but it has staged two internationals there in recent years so it doesn't have any 'novelty value'.

And I'm not sure how the surrounding area around the ground will lend itself to the colourful carnival that is the Magic Weekend, the same way it did at Newcastle.

Maybe it's just me, although judging by the pre-sales, I don't think it is. How else do Super League explain the expected huge drop in attendance?

I hope I'm wrong. I hope it’s a huge success, because there's a lot I really like about the Magic concept. Three games on one day, fans mingling together, activities on and off the pitch, a good excuse to visit somewhere, a great venue... what's not to love, right?

But I fear we may be left wondering whether the event has run its course or, at the very least, it needs a shake-up for 2020 and beyond.

Catalans away hardly falls into the bracket of ‘guaranteed banker’ for any side – even Saints and the Wolves have lost at the Dragons this year.

And for a struggling and depleted Wigan team, Warrington on neutral turf is no ‘gimme’. Magic won’t define Wigan’s season, win or lose. But what I really want to see from Wigan is a performance.

Their display at the Nou Camp left me really deflated. Even at half-time, when they trailed 8-6, their attack looked tired.

I’ve heard people say some Wigan fans have unrealistic expectations of wanting to win every week – and some probably do.

But the loss to Warrington in the Cup showed me that many more can stomach defeats when they see their side having a dig and playing well.

Let's hope they can get back to that.

Super League has announced it has extended its partnership with Betfred for two years in what it describes as the “biggest commercial deal in the history of the competition”.

Bigger than Stobart, you ask? It seems so.

Seriously, well done to them. It seems like a great piece of business, and offers some financial stability as they prepare for the choppy waters of negotiating a new TV deal in the not-too-distant future.

John Bateman has been back home recently as he recovers from injury.

How Wigan could do with Bateman in their side right now. They miss his mongrel when things aren’t going their way.

But to those who say he wasn’t properly replaced at Wigan, I’ll repeat my view – it’s not a second-rower they’re missing (although Liam Farrell’s return from injury will be welcomed!).

It’s another position where they need to strengthen – up front.

They have some good props and some young props with potential, but they need an enforcer to join them. Far too often they are being out-muscled in the crucial area.

Mention enforcer props, and if Quentin Pongia isn’t the best I've seen, he’s on the podium.

He had that granite frame and that glint in his eye which gave you confidence just from his presence on the pitch. "He intimidated the intimidators," said Brian Carney.

He stuck around in Wigan after hanging up his boots, working as a personal trainer, and in my few dealings with him I was always amazed that such a fearless warrior could be such a gentle person.

I was saddened to hear of his death and my thoughts are with his family and friends.