Eight NRL games in three 'Magic' days at Suncorp Stadium
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg says next year's Magic Round of the Telstra Premiership, to be played at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium, is one of several innovations the game is looking at to keep developing rugby league at the top level.
The NRL announced on Sunday that the Magic Round is scheduled for round nine in May of next season and will feature all 16 clubs playing from Friday night to Sunday.
The concept has been devised through a partnership with the Queensland Government and Brisbane City Council and aims to inject $60 million and 300,000 nights of tourist accommodation into greater Brisbane.
Greenberg says that the double-headers - which have been a success in recent seasons in Sydney, Auckland and Perth - may also be expanded to other cities, plus matches will continue to be played in major regional areas.
And the 2018 season is set to be launched with a match in Los Angeles or San Francisco, though the NRL is yet to confirm this.
"Next year you will be see a number of innovations and this stands at the top of it," Greenberg said.
"The 16 clubs have been very supportive of doing something innovative. This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase our game and create a festival-like occasion for a premiership round.
"Our goal to obviously sell out three days in a row, and I can assure you ticket prices will be affordable. There is an opportunity to sell tickets across all three days or individually. The target is for families."
Queensland Minister for Innovation and Tourism Development Kate Jones, Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk, Broncos skipper Darius Boyd and Titans halfback Ash Taylor joined Greenberg in launching Magic Round at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday.
"We have seen the success of our double-headers in recent years, but this takes the concept to another level," Greenberg said.
"Obviously, there will be significant exposure for such a unique round and it will be a wonderful promotion for all our clubs.
"We're extremely grateful for the support of the clubs, the Queensland Government, Brisbane City Council, Suncorp Stadium and our broadcast partners Nine and Fox Sports who have provided unwavering support to ensure this initiative became a reality.
"We'd expect the people of Brisbane to support the festival nature of what will be a wonderful spectacle for rugby league and their city."
Clubs will undertake community engagement initiatives in the lead-up to Magic Round, including school programs, junior development and participation programs, coaching and training development and other community activities.
The concept is similar to England's Super League competition's Magic Weekend which has been an annual part of its schedule for a decade, with matches generally played over two days at cities like Cardiff, Edinburgh, Manchester and Newcastle.
Taylor, raised in the Darling Downs towns of St George and Toowoomba, said he'd like to see some clubs base themselves at nearby regional areas like Toowoomba, Ipswich, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast in the lead-up to the Magic Round, and engage extensively with those communities.
"There are a lot of people who follow rugby league in surrounding areas who don't get to see NRL players very often," Taylor said.
"Toowoomba is where I grew up and my league journey began and we [the Titans] went up there this year and it was awesome to be able to give back to an individual's community.
"It meant so much for me that we were there for four days doing community stuff and to be able to give back to someone's community.
"It's great to support the grassroots where so many of our players grew up, and the Magic Weekend creates an opportunity to do that in Brisbane and maybe other areas as well.
"Gold Coast would be a great place to base a team and go into camp too, it's a more relaxed atmosphere. It's a really exciting concept which I can see grow from next year."
Having eight games played at Suncorp Stadium, which has had issues with its playing surface over the years, might raise some concerns.
But Greenberg said there has been times when three games have been played on the one day during Origin and club rounds, and he has no issues with the playing surface.
This was echoed by Boyd.
"We've had the Reds, Broncos and Roar played here before and double headers staged, so I don't think the surface will be an issue" Boys said.
"I'm excited and really looking forward to it. It's a bit like having the Nines at the start off the year where you have all the teams in the one place and it's a really great occasion.
"To play a proper premiership round here, everyone playing for points and all the teams here at the one time is really exciting."
Both Boyd and Taylor hope to be playing on the Friday night of Magic Round.
"We both said Friday nights to kick the weekend off and then come and enjoy the footy for two days after that," Taylor said.
The full schedule for NRL Brisbane Magic Round will be announced through the release of the 2019 NRL Telstra Premiership draw later this year.
Fans are encouraged to register their interest in NRL Brisbane Magic Round at www.nrl.com/waitlist.