Cramlington Rockets turned out in force once again for rugby league’s Dacia Magic Weekend.
It would not be Magic Weekend in Newcastle without Cramlington Rockets. The local club’s bright orange club colours have become synonymous with the event since it moved to Tyneside in 2015 and they have been taken to the hearts of rugby league fans from across the country.
Based seven miles north of Newcastle, the club have now sold over 1,600 tickets over the last three years – this year’s total of 712 surpassing even their own ambitious targets.
In a land dominated by football, the Rockets have shown how rugby league can be taken to a new area and now have over 230 players across traditional rugby league teams as well as Tots and Touch.
Key to their expansion is their self-created community department, which now works with 30 local schools, something that saw them nominated for RFL National Club of the Year in 2016.
It is through Magic Weekend, though that the Rockets really show their enthusiasm. 2017 was no different to previous years, a seam of orange in the East stand visible on the Sky Sports camera across the whole weekend, with even more on the pitch and in the fan zone.
If you saw some Power Rangers or a band of Mexicans escorting Donald Trump around the fan zone, they were Rockets getting into the fancy dress spirit.
On the pitch, 50 Rockets were given the opportunity to get close to the action.
The U8s had the crowd of the Gallowgate stand on their feet during half-time of the Widnes v Wakefield match with some tremendous tackling, something Sky Sports’ Phil Clarke said was one of the highlights of the weekend in his summation of the two day spectacular.
With all the talk about the impact of new St Helens coach, Justin Holbrook as the Saints ran out 45-0 winners over Hull FC, you may have missed the sight of the Rockets walking out with the players as mascots after whispering advice to the players in the tunnel.
When the Rockets Touch team played Yorkshire Thorns at half-time, it was a very special occasion for the man in the middle as newly qualified match official Ben Shires, an U15 at the club, was taking charge of his very first match. How many people can say they have done that at St James’ Park in front of 30,000 people?
With Rockets also acting as flag bearers for Hull FC and in the case of local fan ambassador, Paul Dunham, Leeds Rhinos, it was U7 Rocco Allen who captured the most attention.
Having taken part in Rockets Community sessions for the last year, Rocco was given the opportunity via Dacia and Newcastle Thunder to present the match ball for Huddersfield Giants vs Catalan Dragons.
Mad about rugby, due to his autism, Rocco has found it difficult in the past to get involved but thanks to the inclusive nature of the Rockets’ sessions he is now able to be fully involved.
Supported from the sidelines by his mum, dad and brother Luca, it was a special moment for the whole family.
“Magic Weekend is aptly named.” said Rockets’ chairman, Jeff Ball. “It’s an event that is not only a great two days for all the family, but allows us to showcase what is good about rugby league while also creating memories to last a lifetime.
“It has definitely helped us raise the profile of both the club and North East rugby league immeasurably and if it returns next year I am sure we will once again welcome it with open arms.”