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2023 NRL Magic Round preview: a spectacle to behold

The festival of footy returns in 2023 at Suncorp Stadium from the 5th to the 7th of May, and will feature the NRL‘s newcomers, the Dolphins.

The 4th instalment of Magic Round will take place in round 10, and will be a spectacle for all NRL fans with all teams (except Newcastle Knights) set out in Brisbane once again.

Suncorp Stadium will almost reach its max capacity of 52,500, every match which will erupt for everything the NRL has to offer.

Every try, tackle and even kiss cam is a chance for the crowd to unite in their chants and deafening screams.

The Dolphins have joined the NRL in 2023, and will find themselves a popular attraction at their first Magic Round.

Wayne Bennet‘s lead side will look to capitalise on his experience at the event on the scene of the superstar coaches’ previous state of origin and club success.

Football in front of posts with three jerseys in the background.


Canberra Raiders v Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs

In the opening match for the event the Bulldogs will be out to avoid unwanted history at the 2023 Magic Round.

If Canterbury Bankstown lose to the Raiders in round 10, they will have 11 straight losses at the venue, the most of any team in the league.

The Canberra Raiders will be out to beat a desperate Bulldogs team as both sides look to add to their mid-season points tallies.

With the sides sitting in a similar position on the ladder, both sides will be looking to make an early statement on their top 8 hopes with a big performance in Brisbane.

If reminiscent of 2022 the Bulldogs will also have a large following at the ground with fan favourite Matt Burton being sure to electrify the crowd with his signature ‘Burton Bombs’.

Despite the Bulldogs offering a better side on paper, the men from the nations capital will look to extend their winning streak over the Bulldogs to seven in a row.

Boasting a Queensland representative star in Josh Papali’i, the Raiders do stand a strong chance against the Sydney-siders where the props experience may come into play.

The Canberra home side will hope to start Magic Round with a bang on Friday the 5th of May at 6:00pm.

Manly Warringah Sea Eagles v Brisbane Broncos

To finish the Friday night will be a blockbuster for the Brisbane locals when the Broncos take on Manly for the battle of the fullbacks.

2021 Dally M medallist, Tom Trbojevic is arguably the most important player in the competition for his team. With Manly’s win percentage increasing significantly when ‘Turbo’ takes the field, the Broncos will need to contain the superstar if they are to win on their home turf.

Meanwhile, the Broncos will be unleashing one of the most dominant players in the competition, Reece Walsh. In his first 5 games of the season, Walsh boasts an impressive 3 tries and 7 try assists in just 5 games played.

Expect the Broncos however, to aim and roll over Manly in the middle of the field through their dominant forward pack. This will in turn, free up their backline with more space to continue playing their exciting brand of footy.

No matter the result, fans can expect a high scoring and exciting game of rugby league. As history shows, this matchup often produces many tries and a dominant winning margin, which is something fans can get right behind until the final whistle.

The past two meetings between these sides have ended as 38-0 to the Broncos in 2022 and 50-6 to Manly in 2021.

Broncos v Sea Eagles will commence at 8:05pm on Friday the 5th of May.

New Zealand Warriors v Penrith Panthers

To open Saturday’s festivities, will be the back-to-back defending premiers the Penrith Panthers, taking on the surprise danger team of 2023, the New Zealand Warriors.

The Panthers are premiership favourites again this season as they look to achieve a three-peat of premierships. With threats all across the park who can score in the blink of an eye and no real defensive flaws, the Warriors will need to be at their absolute best to stand a chance.

Penrith halfback, Nathan Cleary will continue to show his dominance as one of the best players in the NRL. He’s sure to get the fans into a frenzy with his clinical passing game and floating bombs.

However, when he is calling the shots for the men in black he will have to worry about his opposite 7, Shaun Johnson.

Warriors halfback Johnson, has seen a real resurgence in 2023 after having a couple of stagnant years in the top grade. However, it seems he has regained his younger, exciting and side-stepping self again.

It has led the Warriors to significant wins thus far in the season, including a comeback win over his former club; the Cronulla Sharks.

The Warriors will look to dethrone the Panthers at 3:00pm on Saturday the 6th of May.

Dolphins v Cronulla Sharks

This will be the Dolphins first appearance at Magic Round and being one of the four Queensland sides at the event, expect them to be heavy fan favourites against the Cronulla Sharks.

Following their impactful start to the season, flying out of the gates with a 3-0 start, the new side will look to continue their strong inaugural season with a win at their second home in Suncorp Stadium.

Meanwhile, the Sharks will look to solidify themselves as a premiership contending team as they aim to turnaround their disappointing 1-2 record at Magic Round.

Making a strong run into the finals series in 2022, losing to Canberra in last seasons event will be fresh in their minds. To avoid another defeat to an underdog side Craig Fitzgibbon‘s men have to be at their best.

The sides will clash on Saturday the 6th of May at 5:30pm.

Melbourne Storm v South Sydney Rabbitohs

Another likely top 8 match up between the Bunnies and the Storm is likely to get the fans going. With both teams rarely missing finals and boasting proud histories with plenty of prestigious results.

They will be looking to solidify their mid season form with a Magic Round win.

With Storm, still likely to be down on troops with the ongoing absence of superstar fullback, Ryan Papenhuyzen , Souths will be the favourites to capitalise on the opportunity through their formidable spine.

Three of souths four spine players having played representative NRL, this side possesses possibly the most dangerous attack in the competition aside from possibly the Penrith Panthers.

A new development for the Rabbitohs in 2023 has been their frequency attacking on their right side, which has been delivering plenty of results despite Souths historically favouring their left side with some Cody Walker magic.

However, every NRL fan knows to never write off the Melbourne Storm with supercoach, Craig Bellamy having them ready for any occasion no matter how undermanned they are.

Expect interim fullback, Nick Meaney to continue to deliver for the side around the ruck and capitalise on any South’s errors.

The red-and-greens will take on the Storm on Sunday the 6th of May at 7:45pm.

Wests Tigers v St George Illawarra Dragons

The first game of Sunday’s triple header will be the battle of the merger clubs with the Tigers facing the Dragons.

Currently, the only team without a win and sitting at the bottom of the ladder; the Tigers are in dire straits early in the season.

Not only have they recorded no wins they have also lost their star five-eighth, Adam Doueihi for the season to a ACL tear in round 6.

The Tigers will need to be at their exciting best with assistant coach, Benji Marshall needing to have a massive influence if the side is to win possibly their first game of the season in round 10.

However, it is not all downside for the Tigers, featuring one of the best back rows in the competition where Isaiah Papali’i and John Bateman will be threatening the Dragons defences all day long.

As for the Dragons, they may not be setting the competition on fire either, however, they do boast plenty of firepower and likely enough to overpower the underwhelming and understrength, Wests Tigers.

Halfback, Ben Hunt is likely to orchestrate an attacking masterpiece on last years wooden spoon winners through his elite vision and ball-playing ability.

Expect plenty of tries from the Dragons side who will look to wrecking ball winger Mikaele Ravalawa often.

The try-fest between Dragons and Tigers will kick off on Sunday the 7th at 1:50pm.

NRL ball on ground with Sydney Rooster, South Sydney Rabbitohs and a Wests Tigers Jersey
Sydney Roosters v North Queensland Cowboys

There will be the blockbuster match of the superstar Sydney Roosters who take on 2022’s surprise title contenders the North Queensland Cowboys.

Roosters, who boast one of the best all-star teams in the NRL, are sure to provide a thriller match for fans against the home state heroes; the Cowboys.

Since the rounds conception in 2019, the Roosters are one of only two teams to be undefeated in Magic Round proving a challenge in itself for Queensland locals.

North Queensland will also be out for revenge in 2023 with the side having lost to the Roosters in the 2021 Magic Round.

After a slow start to the season, Magic Round will be the perfect chance for the Cowboys to regain their form of 2022. Being the favourites in the fixture, the Cowboys will replicate their blockbuster performance of last year, which saw them produce one of the tries of the season.

The two premiership threats will meet on Sunday the 7th of May at 4:00pm.

Gold Coast Titans v Parramatta Eels

The final match of Magic round will feature 2022 grand finalists the Parramatta Eels taking on the Titans.

Both sides will have plenty to prove with Parramatta having a poor start to their season despite making such a mark last year.

Meanwhile the Titans have been another shock early in 2023 picking up a few unexpected wins early.

As a very well rounded team across the park, the Titans will look to captain, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui in this match to contain the extremely dangerous Eels forward pack.

The skipper will need a massive effort to contain the likes of Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Junior Paulo for the Gold Coast side to stand any chance.

However, despite their slow start to the year, the Parramatta Eels will be the favourites in this match with plenty of dangers all over the field.

The Eels will be looking to continue warming up to their limitless potential through the year and the Titans are likely to be on the receiving end of it in Magic Round.

Expect veteran playmaker, Mitchell Moses and skipper, Clint Gutherson to be the generals in the Eels walkover of the Titans.

However, if the Titans can manage an upset, they may be in the box seat for an early conversation about a finals berth in 2023.

Worth it?

Still being a new concept by the NRL, seeing this amazing idea taking place is truly something to behold.

The experience both at the games and around Brisbane is a pure dream for fans of rugby league.

There are plenty of places to stay, between 5-star hotels and backpackers this is an event accessible to any.

As a result, it really does give the event a sense of ‘magic’ to see every possible type of fan together in one place.

If you find yourself looking for something to do on the weekend with family and friends, I cannot recommend Magic Round enough.

Photos by Jackson Brimble