The 18th Man Column, A Magic tonic for Wigan’s Barca hangover?

Wigan players applaud the travelling fans at the Nou Camp
Wigan players applaud the travelling fans at the Nou Camp

Wigan Warriors fans have their say ahead of Magic Weekend at Anfield.

Are you a fan of the Magic Weekend?

Sean Lawless: I am a big Magic Weekend fan, although taking it to Liverpool has sapped the joy out of it a little. I am not sure what it is about this weekend, whether it being after the Nou Camp trip, but it just doesn’t feel like it did at the Etihad or St James Park.

The attendance is set to be low, perhaps the lowest attendance ever, which is really disappointing, but I don’t think that should reflect on the concept, more the venue and perhaps timing of the event.

Robert Kenyon: I’m a fan of the Magic Weekend, but I think we could get more out of it if I’m honest.

It should be part of a plan to promote rugby league in a certain city otherwise it’s just a jolly. For instance, with it moving to Anfield, if it’s going to be at Anfield, have it there for five years, start an amateur club or two and have the RFL finance kits, equipment, paid coaches, facilities etc to get them going, and maybe at the end of the five years have the local team play as part of the weekend. Otherwise there’s no legacy from playing a match in that city and it just becomes another Milwaukee game.

I know the cities bid to host the event but let’s not just use it as a jaunt, let’s make it more efficient in spreading the greatest game of all.

First, identify a city with the potential for a top-flight rugby league club with regards competition from other sports, population, what funding is on offer to get people active etc.

Is there currently any appetite for rugby league in that area? For instance London does, Birmingham doesn’t. So I’d be looking more at London in that scenario. Toronto would be a decent place to have it once Toronto are in Super League and have it at the Rogers Centre, the 55,000 capacity baseball stadium smack bang in the centre of the city next to the CN Tower, now that would make a statement. I’m just coming up with a plan on the back of a fag packet and there’s people paid top dollar to come up with ideas, but there is massive potential, I’m not sure we are getting the most out of it.

Jon Lyon: I am a big fan of the Magic Weekend concept. It’s great to mingle with so many fans of other clubs and there always seems to be a carnival atmosphere, especially outside the ground.

It’s a tough dilemma to choose the host. I can understand the desire to move Magic Weekend around the country but, for me, Newcastle has been by far the best host stadium and city. It’s far enough away that it feels like a proper weekend away, rather than Liverpool or Manchester, which are just down the road.

I’m also glad we’ve moved away from trying to have derbies every year, as they are becoming diluted by playing each other so many times. I hope the concept is here for the foreseeable future.

Darren Wrudd: I suppose as a concept I am a fan of Magic weekend, but I have not been to one for a while.

The main reason for this was how we are treated as fans of the game. As an unusual fixture, if fans wish to sit and watch several games in a day, they are going to be in the stadium much longer than the usual couple of hours of a standard match.

The way that we are made to empty any refreshments out before entry to the stadium is disgraceful. It has included sandwich boxes and soft drinks, just so that the same drinks can be sold at extortionate prices inside and poor quality food at ridiculous cost too. Pies for £4 when I know they cost 35 pence to buy and 25p bags of crisps for a quid.

I may sound all scrooge and miserly, but I always pay my way and do not resent anyone making a living.

But when I see families that I know personally, taking several kids having to empty sandwich boxes before they go in, just so that they can be fleeced when captive, I think the only way to make a complaint is to stay away. Perhaps when the crowds are worse than ever this year they will blame it on some other reason, probably Brexit, but just how many of us are sick of being treated poorly by the stadium managers.

David Bailey: I have never been a fan of the Magic Weekend concept at all. It just doesn’t make sense.

It’s basically a weekend on the lash for the fans that go to most games anyway. I’ve only ever been to one and that was a day at the Etihad and it does nothing for me. It skews the league table. It gives teams unfair advantages (for instance Wigan always seem to end up with one of Leeds, Saints and this weekend’s opponents Warrington when they are battling at the top of the table) so for me it can go. The Challenge Cup final was always neutrals’ big day out and I think Magic devalues that.

What are Wigan’s chances?

Sean Lawless: Who knows which Wigan will turn up this weekend, we see Wigan look to turn their season around one week to see us take a few steps backwards the next.

It is an absolute must-win game for Wigan, they cannot afford to lose any more ground on the top five otherwise the season will be fizzling out by the time we reach June. Wigan performing to the standards we have seen them play in short periods this season is more than capable of challenging a Warrington side that has looked anything but invincible in the past month, but it is just a question which Wigan we see.

Robert Kenyon: After the Catalans performance, slim, and something needs to change within the next fortnight otherwise the season’s over at best, at worst we are in a relegation battle. I don’t want to say how I feel at the moment because, if any of the players or coaching staff read this, they’d be very upset with a few home truths, I’ll bite my tongue and hope things turn around soon.

Jon Lyon: This is becoming the impossible question. It depends solely on which Wigan turns up. If we play like we did against Warrington in the cup two weeks ago then we have a great chance. If we play like we did at the Camp Nou then it could be a long 80 minutes.

Warrington also lost at home to Hull, so maybe there is an element of truth to the theory the cup game took so much out of both sides.

We need to run much straighter as a team, the forwards need to make more ground with the ball and the backs need to be committing defenders before passing the ball, otherwise we’re just constantly drifting across the pitch and reducing the space our centres and wingers have to work in.

I’m hopeful of a win, but not confident, now we’re past the half way stage we need to stop talking about kick-starting our season and actually do it.

Darren Wrudd: 50:50 to be honest, even less than that going by recent inconsistency. As ever, it is not that we cannot win but the playmakers need to guide our squad around the park and kick us into good field position.

Our structure in attack is woeful at times and far too much ad hoc make it up as you go along is apparent. It all adds up to panic plays and dropped ball. Then to make up for it we seem to over react in defence and give cheap penalties away, it’s a cycle which needs breaking and we are running out of time. If we settle down and play like we train, things will begin to get better.

David Bailey: Which Wigan will turn up? The one which ran Warrington close at the Halliwell Jones and should have won aside from some terrible mistakes and decisions, or the one that was never at the races at the Nou Camp?

I still don’t fancy us to heat Warrington despite them suffering a Challenge Cup hangover at the hands of Hull. The sooner the Warriors let fans know about the coaching appointment for next year and any player movements the better.

If for instance Lam knows he’s in charge next year he should be blooding youngsters that we will need next year and give those that won’t be going round again a bit of a breather for the bigger games to come.

How do you reflect on the Nou Camp adventure?

Sean Lawless: Having been fortunate enough to go to the Nou Camp, I can honestly say it was the best rugby league experience that I have ever been to.

Never mind the result, the atmosphere among all fans throughout the week and on match day was special and it really showcased rugby league for what it really is.

I would love to see Catalans v Wigan become a event at the Nou Camp or similar stadia across Spain and France every couple of years, it was very very special.

Robert Kenyon: Great, should be something Catalans do each year like we do the Big One. I’m sure most of the Super League sides like Saints, Warrington, Leeds, Castleford and both Hull clubs could get a good travelling away support. We are a forward-facing club and always have been, we’ve always been the front runners leading the way in the sport and to be part of another first is good to be a part of.

Jon Lyon: With regards to Wigan it’s hard to put a finger on what went wrong. Almost everyone in the team did themselves a disservice, and are capable of so much better. I’d possibly exclude Gildart and Hardaker as they were the best of an off-form bunch.

Thinking of the sport as a whole then a Catalans win was probably best to make the most of the opportunity to spread the word in that part of the world.

I’d much rather Wigan had won, but it’s some consolation that the decision to play there seems to have been a great success.

Credit must go to Catalans and Wigan, and the Barcelona club for making this game possible. A record Super League crowd shows it was a great idea.

Hopefully more clubs will try and spread word of our game as much as Wigan do.

Darren Wrudd: The Nou Camp certainly looked great on TV, but unfortunately I could not go and so watched from afar. I think it has to be viewed as a huge success with the crowd alone, not to mention the thousands of supporters who travelled over from Wigan. With the result not going our way, it will do the French game a world of good and I can see them getting many more fans on the back of it. So yes, a success and no down side for me other than the result.

David Bailey: I think it was a tremendous occasion coupled with a record crowd and it meant the world to Catalans so in a way I think it’s better for the sport they won. The fact they chose Wigan shows we are still the hottest ticket in town despite all the put downs from fans of other clubs who can only dream about the places Wigan have played.

The Warriors have always been pioneers whether it be the original WCC, playing in Australia, playing in America (in the smart strip on display this weekend celebrating its 30-year anniversary) playing at the World 9s, the Middlesex 7s (and winning both) playing Bath in a cross-code challenge. Along with the youth system these are things that are the envy of the rugby league world and for me it’s what Wigan are all about.