It's Magic Round and there has been much talk about the future of this festival of rugby league, should it be shared around? Exactly what can we expect from this weekend's eight games in three days at a soggy Suncorp Stadium? And are the Chooks on their way back from a clunky start to the season?
We tackle some of the big talking points in the latest edition of NRL Real or Not.
Magic Round needs to be shared around
Not real: The whole reason Magic Round came into existence was to create a rugby league event that would attract fans from everywhere and allow the people of South East Queensland an opportunity to see all the teams in action.
Magic Round is a destination event - one that brings in rugby league fans from across the country and around the world to watch a festival of footy, all at the one venue. The concept has its origins in events like rugby union's Hong Kong Sevens, a gathering of teams and fans to celebrate a love for the game, have a massive party, and boost the local tourism industry in the process.
It also provides an opportunity for locals to watch some live games that don't involve the Broncos or Titans. Whether you choose to believe it, not every rugby league fan north of the Tweed River supports the Broncos, Titans, or Cowboys. Back before those clubs came into existence, local fans had their favourite Sydney-based teams in the NSWRL. Add to that the many former New South Welshmen that have moved north to live and still support their old clubs.
It's a great occasion, with attendances only threatened by the current inclement weather. Leave it where it is, let other venues pitch for their own events. Certainly, a 'welcome back to rugby league round' would be appropriate for Auckland; after all the live footy local league fans have missed over the past few years. Maybe early next season?
- Darren Arthur
Magic Round should feature a few nail-biters
Real. While the rain-affected conditions expected this weekend in Brisbane may put a limit on the number of highlight plays we can expect to see in Magic Round, they could also produce some tight, low-scoring contests.
Last year's edition of Magic Round was a great event, but the results contained few surprises, but that might not be the case this weekend.
This week's favourites to win include reigning wooden spooners the Bulldogs while the underdogs include the league-leading Melbourne Storm, perennial contenders the Roosters and a Brisbane side on a three-game winning streak, with a packed home ground behind them.
It looms as a good round to expect the unexpected. And also plenty of rain.
- Dominic Brock
Rusty Roosters can still step up for the big games
Real: They've been uncharacteristically erratic this season, but there are signs the Sydney Roosters still have what it takes when they go up against the best in the league. The Roosters have the best record in the NRL against top-eight teams so far this season, winning three from three (against the Sea Eagles, Cowboys and Broncos). The Panthers and Cowboys have won two from three against top-eight opposition.
Whether it's just a quirk of their draw so far or a sign of things to come, the Tricolours have the chance to test their mettle with their three toughest games of the season coming up in the next three rounds - against Parramatta, Penrith and Cronulla.
Manly (0-3) and the Titans (0-6) are the only two clubs yet to win a game against top-eight opposition.
Bizarrely, while they've been winning the big games, the Roosters have struggled more against bottom-eight sides, losing four times in six games. Only the Wests Tigers (1-4) have a worse record in those contests.
Melbourne (7-0) and Penrith (6-0) are the teams with perfect records against bottom-eight sides.
Two of the competition's strugglers, Canterbury and Newcastle, have 1-6 records against top-eight sides. That's obviously not ideal, but it does mean their fortunes could improve when they play against other teams in the lower half of the ladder. Each of those teams have only played two of their nine matches against bottom-eight teams, and they face each other on Friday night.
- Dominic Brock