An event that certainly worked it’s magic on us!
My husband Ron and I enjoy watching great sporting contests and a few years ago we made it our mission to enjoy some ‘firsts’ in live sporting events which saw us attend, amoungst others, our first England football match, first England Cricket match (where we beat Australia in the Ashes in Durham) and first Rugby Union game of Newcastle Falcons v Harlequins. So imagine how thrilled I was to be invited by the Rugby Football League to attend the Dacia Magic Weekend at St. James Park in Newcastle. This fantastic event sees the 12 Betfred Super League teams compete in 6 games during this spectacular 2 day event. This must surely be a Rugby League fans dream!
Now in it’s 11th year, the Dacia Magic Weekend returned to Newcastle for the 3rd consecutive year. Such is the popularity of this event, it saw 65,407 fans flock to St James Park over two days to enjoy the Rugby League action and a host of family entertainments.
We were attending on the first day, Saturday and travelled to the stadium by car where we took advantage of complimentary parking as part of our VIP Saturday tickets. Driving through the city we spotted many fans in their team colours or in fancy dress to reflect the ‘super hero’ theme that influenced some of the Team strips for this years event. Leeds Rhinos’ kit was themed as Captain America, Hull FC as Hulk, Warrington Wolves as Thor, Wakefield Trinity’s as Spiderman and Catalans Dragons kit as Ironman.
Arriving at the stadium car park we were quickly directed to the dedicated parking area by efficient parking stewards. Once parked we were kindly escorted by a friendly young steward toward the Milburn Stand reception where plenty of helpful staff were on hand directing people to their relevant hospitality suites.
Arriving at Heroes Club, our venue for the day and the latest offering in hospitality venues at St. James Park, we were issued with our event passes and tokens for a complimentary drink, which was a welcome touch. At this point I was really impressed with how organised and welcoming the staff were. We entered Heroes Club to be met with the official welcome speech from Claire Morrow, Director of the Rugby Football League. The room itself is very cool and contemporary in style with mixed seating of bar tables and stools, dining tables and sofas. Settled with a drink were soon enjoying the relaxed atmosphere and as we weren’t far off the first game starting, there was an air of anticipation among the guests. Numerous hospitality staff circulated the room offering tasty Tapa’s style fayre and canapes and a DJ played a great mix of background music which added to the enjoyment as we approached the first game of the day.
Nearing the 2.30 kick off we took our ‘extremely comfortable’ seats in the Directors Box to watch Widnes Vikings take on Wakefield Trinity. What a great location either side of the centre line! just perfect to enjoy all the sporting action. The crowd was a great mix including families, couples and groups of friends. Waiting for game to start, I sensed a great feeling of camaraderie amonst fans and the vibe was a very relaxed, which was certainly a contrast to the crowds who attend the stadium for football matches! Of course, once the teams appeared on the pitch, the crowd began to roar and then it was game on!
I really enjoyed the atmosphere in the Stadium and felt that Wakefield Trinity must have brought the whole of West Yorkshire to support them such was the noise their fans generated whenever Trinity looked like scoring a Try. During the game many youngsters were waving giant foam ‘hands’ which had been handed out by sponsor Dacia or raising their Try cards, which were provided by Kingstone Press. As we don’t support a particular team, we just clapped and cheered when either side scored a Try or a Place Kick over the crossbar and I observed that many of the fans did this too!
We remained in our seats durng half time as we were entertained by the ‘future’ of Rugby League as we watched junior Rugby players being put through their paces on the pitch as well as tackling a few mascots! namely a Lion and a tin of ‘Mushy Peas! sadly, my photo of that novelty didn’t come out too well! there was a live band playing for our enjoyment too.
Watching live, I felt the physicality of the game was even more apparent. The players really get stuck into each other and hit the ground at some force too! it really makes you think about what the human body can withstand! After an action-packed game, Trinity were victorious at 34 – 12 although Vikings perhaps won in the style stakes with their black and white Sir Bobby Robson Foundation jerseys – a fitting tribute and a nod toward the Football Team who usually thrill the crowds at St James Park.
Heading back into Heroes club we enjoyed another selection of tasty treats before watching a Q&A session with former England captain Kevin Sinfield who was quizzed about his career by two young fans. This added a fun element to the proceedings as their range of questions, including one about his journey to the Dark Side (Rugby Union) brought about a fair few laughs, though all in good spirit. They also challenged him to demonstrate his trademark cartwheel! though he managed wangle his way out of that one!
We observed that there were a few familiar faces milling around including Brian Barwick, Chairman of Super league, Europe; Steve Harper, former NUFC goalkeeper and the legendary Peter Beardsley, the former Newcastle United, Liverpool and England footballer. Peter has been an avid fan of Rugby League since watching his first live game at Anfield Football Stadium during his playing days for Liverpool in the 1980’s. He had passed us in the corridor earlier and said a friendly hello as if he knew us (he doesn’t) which was lovely. When he came into Heroes Club I took the opportunity to ask him for his autograph for my two NUFC fan nephews to which he happily agreed. He came across as a lovely man who happily posed for photographs with the many fans who approached him.
They say all good thing must come to an end and unfortunately, as we’d had prior commitments before being invited along, we were only able to stay for one game. So we reluctantly took our leave of Heroes Club and I was quite disappointed as I was having such a great time and the atmosphere was getting livelier by the minute! Having read about the facilities of the Fan Zone, we left enough time to check this out before we went.
Situated outside under the quite gaze of the Bobby Robson and Jackie Milburn statues, the Fan Zone included plentiful food and drink facilities and opportunities to buy merchandise. The Fan Zone stage hosted player interviews and more plus fans could take part in fun activities including Rodeo Rugby Ball, Rugby Passing and High Striker games and a chance to test their skills on a Batak machine. Dacia had a range of their cars on display too.
It was fairly quiet as we entered, most probably as fans had poured into the stadium for the second game between Hull FC and St. Helens. Having enjoyed food and drink in the Stadium we didn’t try anything in the Fan Zone however, there was plenty on offer to cater for most tastes. I’d have loved to hang out for a bit with a glass..or two..of prosecco if I’d had more time!
Making our way to our car, I felt reluctant to be leaving but was so glad that I’d had the opportunity to attend this fantastic event which saw fans from all over the UK head to Newcastle. The event is known for the carnival atmosphere it creates in the city which makes Newcastle, known for it’s ‘Party City’ credentials, the perfect place to hold such an event. The stadiums central location means it is easily reached by the various excellent transport links direct to the heart of the city. The region receives a welcome financial boost too with last year seeing in excess of £4.3 million being generated for the local economy. The beauty of the City is also promoted as images of Newcastle and the surrounding area are broadcast around the globe as part of the TV coverage.
Of course we followed the remaining action via the radio and TV once we’d left and the weekend culminated in the following results:
Saturday May 20th
Widnes 12 – 34 Wakefield; Hull FC 0 – 45 St Helens; Wigan 24 – 24 Warrington
Sunday May 21st
Catalan Dragons 10 – 18 Huddersfield; Leigh 22 – 36 Salford; Castleford 29 – 18 Leeds
All in all the Dacia Magic Weekend is a great event for all the family whether you are a Rugby League fan or just love sport and a great day out! and I’d love to see it return to Newcastle in 2018…now that really would be magic!
Did you attend this event or attend in previous years? or perhaps you’ve had a great experience at another sporting event. I’d love to hear about it.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post, I hope you enjoyed it.
Bye for now, June xx
*I received complimentary tickets for the event in return for an honest review.