Change looms for Magic Round as Manly dump ‘home’ game

Scott Bailey |

The NRL may have to convince several clubs to move a home game to Magic Round next year, as teams weigh up their options for 2025.

Manly have become the first team to tell head office they will not renew their deal to play a ‘home’ game in Brisbane next year, after having hosting rights since 2018.

Canberra and Wests Tigers are also considering their plans, with no deal signed yet beyond 2024.

For the Raiders, a decision is likely to hinge on whether they are taken to Las Vegas at the start of the 2025 season.

The Tigers are considering their entire stadium strategy for next year, with a decision to be made next month.

The joint-venture have already ruled out taking more games out of Sydney, with Tamworth off the cards for 2025 and Magic Round the only possible exception.

Cronulla, the Warriors and Gold Coast have agreed to stay on as home teams, and are locked in until the end of 2027.

South Sydney and Melbourne are likely to join them on three-year agreements.

The NRL pays clubs around $350,000 a year to move a home game to Magic Round, with Penrith keen to be an option next season while BlueBet Stadium is unavailable.

Manly’s decision not to stay on as a home team will cause the biggest change to the fixtures.

Manly v Brisbane at Suncorp in 2023.
The Sea Eagles have hosted matches in Queensland since 2018. (Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS)

The Sea Eagles have hosted matches in Queensland since before the round’s creation, and their Friday night clash with the Broncos has become a staple of the weekend.

But coach Anthony Seibold has made clear he would prefer to reduce travel next year, after three games in Queensland, one in Auckland and one in Las Vegas to start this season.

The Sea Eagles also feel they have the biggest disadvantage in Magic Round each year, playing on the Broncos’ turf.

Commercially, Manly are happy to forego the deal. 

The new Bob Fulton Stand has increased corporate opportunities at 4 Pines Park, while crowds are well up on the 52-year low of 2018 when they made the call to be a Magic Round ‘host’.

“At the time, because we had dwindling crowds in home games, it was a really good financial outcome,” Manly CEO Tony Mestrov said.

“That’s not the case at the moment, with three out of four home games sold out this year.”

Manly’s board will consider whether to play 12 regular-season games at Brookvale next year for the first time since 2005, or move up to two matches to neutral venues.