Phil Clarke looks ahead to the Magic Weekend in Manchester
Phil Clarke looks ahead to the Magic Weekend and predicts who'll be winners and losers in Manchester.
By Phil Clarke
Last Updated: 15/05/14 9:26am
A chance to see all of the biggest stars on one stage over one long weekend. There might not be many fans camping around the Etihad Stadium but there are plenty who plan to stay over in Manchester and celebrate this mid-season event. I can't wait.
We've perhaps been guilty of changing the venue too frequently in the past. We need to allow it to build up a following like a music festival, when people get to know where it will be every year and can make their plans 12 months in advance. This is the third year that the Magic takes place in Manchester and I've got a feeling it will be the best so far.
In addition to the performing arts show of rugby league talent, there's a variety of other entertainment in and around the ground. The background music is provided by The Big Beat and DJ Spoony will be on the decks. You can even test yourself to see if you're as strong as the players out there on the field. One of the First Utility Super League partners, Isuzu, have a truck that you can attempt to pull! I might see if I can talk Barrie and Terry into doing that!
Stars of the future
The event will be a showcase of new talent. It happens every year. You turn up to watch a game and come across a player you've never heard of before. Last year it was the young full back called Morgan Escare. Nobody really knew who he was before he performed his tricks and left the London Broncos wondering just what they'd seen.
Day one, has four games with a re-match of one of my favourite games from 2013 when the Vikings were beaten in the dying stages by the Salford Red Devils.
The headline act at 7.15 is the battle between the winners of the last seven Grand Finals. It was the closest game in 2013 and ended in drama when Leeds were denied by the Video Referee's decision to disallow a try. Will the Rhinos be good enough to win there this year?
It might only be the halfway point, I appreciate that there is lots of time left in the season, but it's a psychologically significant landmark in the campaign to be crowned Champions in October.
So how do I see this weekend panning out? Catalan v London are first up and while Catalans don't like to travel, I still think they will be too strong for London. If London are to have any chance then they really need to start strong and score early. I also think that Widnes will beat Salford - both are great sides with plenty of talent but I have been impressed with what Denis Betts has done.
Hull KR v Hull FC is always a superb game - yes they have had their controversies at the Magic weekend in the past but let's hope this year neither has anything to complain about. I'm piping Hull KR to just take this one. Leeds against Wigan is also going to be a great game but I think that Leeds have a slightly stronger team out at the moment and I think they will take this one.
On Sunday we kick off with a game that three weeks ago would have said Castleford by a mile, but the Wakefield players are fighting for their livelihoods and I really see an upset on the cards here. Bradford are another team fighting for their lives but they are up a very formidable Giants pack who I think will make it a long afternoon for the Bulls.
Warrington against St Helens rounds off the weekend and what a game this will be. Warrington have not hit their straps this year but I think they will step up to the plate on Sunday and I see them beating Saints.
Catch all seven game of Magic Weekend on Sky Sports, click here for details