|Venue: St James’ Park, Newcastle Date: Saturday 4 & Sunday 5 September Coverage: Updates on BBC local radio and live scores and reports on the BBC Sport website|
Super League’s Magic Weekend returns from Saturday for the first time in two years as the 2021 season begins to draw to a conclusion.
The event also returns to Newcastle’s St James’ Park a year after it was meant to take place, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
There is plenty to play for as a relentless season enters its final bow.
BBC Sport looks at what to expect ahead of a magical return to the north east for the first time since 2018.
Top two go head to head
League leaders Catalans Dragons take on second-placed St Helens in the second fixture of the weekend and it is a game which could have big implications in the end-of-season make-up.
The Perpignan side lead the table on win percentage and have played two more games than Saints, but victory for either side on Saturday could go a long way to deciding who wins the 2021 League Leaders’ Shield.
“We’re looking forward to it and I know Catalans will be as well,” Saints boss Kristian Woolf told BBC Radio Merseyside.
“I thought the game against Warrington was a really high quality semi-final-style game and I expect exactly the same this weekend.
“Both teams still have an opportunity to win the League Leaders’ Shield which is important and both teams know we’re more than likely going to come across each other again at some stage in the finals and that makes it exciting.”
Battle for the play-off places
It is not just the top of the pile in Super League who have it all to play for. There a battle for play-off spots to be decided too.
Castleford and Leeds currently stand on the periphery as they try to seal a top-six place in time for the post-season and victories against Salford and Hull FC respectively will go a long way to getting over the line.
“There’s no pressure on Salford. They’ve nothing to lose. The way they’re playing with the ball, there’s a lot of movement there,” Castleford boss Daryl Powell told BBC Radio Leeds.
“When it really counts for something, you have to make sure your head is where it needs to be and we were disappointed with our effort last week. It’s a build up of close tough games in a short time and this gives us a breather.”
Leeds Rhinos head coach Richard Agar added: “[Hull FC boss] Brett Hodgson and I have the same sentiments. It’s must-win for both of us.
“It’s not all over if either side lose but given our league positions, how close it is to the end of the season and win percentage, it’s almost more than two points in the context of the season.”
A final Magic Weekend for Brown and Lam
It is also the end of an era for one of the standout names in Super League as Kevin Brown features in his final Magic Weekend as a player before his retirement.
Former England international Brown will retire at the end of the season, ending a 20-year professional career.
The 36-year-old has played in all but one of each Magic Weekend since its inception in 2007.
Meanwhile, Adrian Lam takes charge of Wigan in the event for the final time after announcing he will step down at the end of the season.
Speaking about his decision, Lam told BBC Radio Manchester: “I just wanted to make sure we got through that June, July, August period where players are negotiating signings and I wanted to make sure the priority was them getting sorted and then focus on myself.
“I’ve come to that point now and I’m really happy with it. I’ve had great conversations and relationship with [chairman] Ian Lenagan and [executive director] Kris Radlinski and they’ve been great supporters of mine and I’ve loved ever second.”