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Staying in castles, night walks through cemeteries or just sitting in the stands watching a game with your teammates.

These are just some of the unique experiences for a few ex-NRL players who have had their own personal taste of a Super League Magic Weekend.

As good as the off-field memories are, nothing compares to the atmosphere during the 80 minutes they were on the field.

The NRL’s first Magic Round kicks off with the Titans taking on the Sharks at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night, with more than 130,000 fans expected to flood into ‘The Cauldron’ over the next four days.

With two games on Friday night, three on Saturday and two blockbusters on Sunday afternoon, it promises to create a carnival atmosphere unlike anything ever witnessed in Australian rugby league.

The first Super League Magic Weekend was played at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium in 2007 and a host of Aussies have featured in the 11 years since.

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Wests Tigers legend Pat Richards was on the wing for Wigan when they went down 34-18 to St Helens on the first Magic Weekend 12 years ago and said the crowd helped to generate an intensity he didn't experience in normal regular season games.

“I was lucky enough to play in a few of them. I played at Murrayfield in Scotland, at the Millennium Stadium in Wales and Etihad, Newcastle’s home ground,” Richards told

“It’s a great experience because all the fans are there and it’s got almost a semi-final like atmosphere. It was normally a derby game as well so they were always good games.”

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Manly great Steve Menzies scored a try in his first Magic Weekend for Bradford in 2009 in a 32-16 win over Wakefield Trinity and said the semi-final type atmosphere flows through the fans as they enter the stadium.

“When you’re playing in a semi-final and you’ve got fans pouring into the stadium you can feel that extra level of energy and you get that on those Magic Weekends,” Menzies explained.

“Depending on who is playing and how tight the games are the fans go up. You’ll be preparing for a game and hear a huge roar out in the stands and you might not play for another two hours. You don’t get that in any other normal game.

“If you’re the early game you can play and then sit in the stands and watch and maybe have a couple of beers with the boys.”

Richards said Magic Round would have more players watching games than usual.

“As players, no one ever really goes to the game,” Richards said.

“We watch them on TV all the time but to actually be at the ground and see the crowd is quite a unique opportunity for us.”

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Former Raiders five-eighth Terry Campese lost both Magic Weekend games he played in for Hull KR against arch-rivals Hull FC but said it was the supporters who made it such a memorable experience.

“The highlight for me was the fans,” Campese said.

"Getting all the fans of all the teams together in the one place, plenty of banter going on between everyone. It’s just one of those weekends that you want to be a part of.

“With the hype around the weekend you can’t help but getting up for those games. We were running out to 30-40,000 people all singing and chanting.

“It doesn’t matter whether you follow a team that is playing a particular game, everyone is cheering for someone if they need a certain team to lose to help their side on the ladder.”

Glenn Hall, who played 192 NRL games for the Bulldogs, Sea Eagles, Roosters, Rabbitohs and Cowboys, played one Magic Weekend for Bradford in 2010 and made the most of it.

“The experience was fantastic," Hall said.

"We took the bus up to the day before and stayed in this castle about half an hour outside of Edinburgh.

“Myself, Steve Menzies, Heath L’Estrange, Brett Kearney, the Aussie boys in our Bradford squad stayed and did tours of Edinburgh castle, night walks through cemeteries.

“The game and the weekend itself was a terrific experience. To have all the clubs there, all the spectacles that were happening outside of the arena that fans could engage in and see other players from the competition.

“I think it’s a great idea and I’m glad it’s been adopted out here.”

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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