Leeds Rhinos second-row Jamie Jones-Buchanan and Bradford Bulls utility back Brett Kearney revealed their experiences of the thrilling Magic Weekend atmosphere.
All 14 Super League clubs travel to Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium this weekend with leaders Rhinos taking on reigning champions Wigan Warriors, while lowly Bradford face Huddersfield Giants.
Although neither player will feature in this, the eighth, Magic Weekend due to injury, both claim the experience of playing at the 60,000-seater stadium is one to savour.
A number of players have been handing out ice creams on the streets of Manchester to promote the event and Jones-Buchanan believes it is important they take promoting their profession seriously.
“I think as a player, if you’ve never played in a final, it’s as close as you’re going to get, massive crowd, big stadium and for me as a Leeds United fan it’s always nice to go to Man City’s stadium too,” he told Sky Sports News.
“The lads always look forward to it; I know I can pretty much remember every game I’ve played in at a Magic Weekend.
“Players have got to get involved, we belief it’s the best game in the world and I think the players have always been accessible to the fans and that’s one of the great things about our game.”
Kearney, who is currently sidelined with a thumb injury, reiterated Jones-Buchanan’s thoughts, claiming it is one biggest games of the season.
“It’s a different atmosphere to what you have throughout the rest of the season; it’s always great to see the other teams’ fans there,” he said.
“It’s one of the bigger crowds, if not the biggest, you’ll play in front of all season.
Jones-Buchanan holds fond memories of the Magic Weekend having scored Leeds’ first try in their 42-38 victory over rivals Bradford Bulls in the inaugural event.
“I don’t score many tries so I can remember that particular one and we won it in quite controversial circumstances at the end, Jordan Tansey scored a try in the last minute to beat them and Bradford are still moaning I think,” he recalled.
Seven successive wins have seen the Rhinos charge to the Super League summit, while Wigan are just five points adrift in third.
“We’ve been on a run of seven wins, I think the team has got better since I’ve been injured, I don’t know how I’m going to find my way back in,” Jones-Buchanan said.
“The lads are playing some really good rugby league, against Wigan a few weeks ago we got the victory but I think they’ll try some different things, they’re a clever side.
“Wigan keep bringing the young kids through and they go the spoils last year so we’re looking to go there and take it this year.”
However, the Rhinos forward claims they are not getting carried away, saying: “It’s too early to talk about the League Leader’s Shield, you can’t put anything down in stone, there are a lot of rights to be earned.”
Meanwhile, after starting the season on minus six points, Bradford returned to the black and off the bottom of the table with a 34-28 victory over Warrington Wolves two weeks ago.
Kearney is keen to see the Bulls build on their display against last year’s Grand Finalists and bounce back from a 50-0 reverse to St Helens last time out.
“We’ve definitely had our tough times this season but we have recently started moving forward and we sensed that with a big win over Warrington,” he said.
“At the end of the day all we can do is turn up and do our best on the weekend, we have a real tight-knit group and we’ll continue doing our best for the club.”