With Magic Weekend set to enjoy a fourth successive year of Geordie hospitality, one North East club has consistently been at the front of the welcome committee.
Cramlington Rockets have taken Magic Weekend to heart.
Seeing their members adorned in bright orange t-shirts has become a staple sight to tick off for those visiting Newcastle for rugby league’s summer party.
2018 is set to be no different, with the club based seven miles north of Newcastle having sold 409 tickets to this year’s event.
It’s a phenomenal show of support that takes their tally to over 2,000 tickets sold since the move to St James’ Park, made all the more impressive when you add on the 1,000+ tickets they have taken for Newcastle Thunder’s now traditional Friday-night curtain raiser at Kingston Park.
“There is nothing better than live rugby league” says Chairman, Jeff Ball.
“I can still remember that feeling of walking to the stadium in year one and been amazed at all the different team shirts wandering around Newcastle with a buzz of excitement.
Since then, Newcastle has consistently proved it deserves to be a home for rugby league and it says a lot that this will be the fourth year Magic has been held here.”
As well as partaking in the fun off the pitch, the Rockets will be on it too, with the club’s U8s set to play during the Wigan game and Alnwick Bears, its sister club set up to increase playing opportunities in Northumberland, set to be mascots for the Salford vs Catalan match on Sunday.
“Rugby league is all about opportunities and experiences” continues Ball. “We’ve been lucky enough to have our members involved every year, be it as mascots or walking the flags out.
That creates memories that stick with people and creates an emotional attachment to the game. That’s how you create fans for life.”
While the presence of Super League shines a light on the region for one weekend, it’s the legacy it leaves behind that is key.
There is quality throughout the region. Cramlington Rockets are the current RFL National club of the Year and are the first North East team to enter a team into the Yorkshire Premier division, where they are more than holding their own.
Elsewhere, Wallsend Eagles this year were the first North East side to enter the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup in over a decade, Gateshead Storm finished 7th in the NCL 3rd Division last year and Whitley Bay have one of the country’s leading girls’ sections.
With the Newcastle Thunder Academy now regularly beating Super League Academy sides and the first team aiming for a Betfred League One play-off spot, there’s progress at every level of the game.
If Magic Weekend continues to charm the locals into getting involved, it is only a matter of time before we stop referring to the North East as being outside the heartlands.
Updated 11:46 - 9 May 2018 by Jeff Ball