Thursday, May 26th, 2016.

Excelsior Academy pupils turned sports reporters for the day with a VIP welcome at Rugby League’s showcase event at St James’ Park.

Peter Lumbard, Allan Sanca Gomes and Manar Alkour were given a guided tour of Newcastle United’s stadium and access to the mixed zone area to interview top players alongside sports journalists.

Rugby Football League communications manager Garry Miller and his team welcomed the Excelsior trio to the Dacia Magic Weekend which attracted nearly 70,000 fans from across the country to watch two days of thrilling Super League fixtures.

The exciting weekend has quickly established itself as a showcase for the sport – taking Rugby League out on the road across the UK to grow its fan base.

Top teams including Wigan Warriors, Castleford Tigers and Leeds Rhinos brought the passion of Rugby League to St James’ Park for the second year in a row.

Excelsior’s budding reporters got to build on their BBC School Report work at the Magic Weekend, writing their own match reports complete with player quotes.

English teacher Natalie Bryce contacted the RFL to see if they would allow pupils to sample the atmosphere of the popular event carried live on Sky Sports.

Natalie said: “We can’t thank Garry and his team enough for the wonderful welcome they gave our pupils at the Magic Weekend, they haven’t stopped talking about it since.

“They were treated like VIPs, able to speak with the top players and sit with the media to see how they cover a top sports event which will help with their BBC School Report work.

“There was a fantastic, friendly atmosphere during the games and Rugby League has certainly won a new following at Excelsior Academy.”

Garry said: “We were delighted to welcome the Excelsior Academy children – Rugby League is a very accessible sport; we pride ourselves on being inclusive right from the top of the sport to the grass roots.

“We try to give ‘money can’t buy’ experiences to young people by offering mascot, flag bearer and ball boy opportunities.

“The Excelsior children were treated as members of the media wherever they went – officially accredited journalists with their own pass.

“They were given full access and insight into how the match would work for a national sporting outlet.

“The pupils worked in the media mixed zone – speaking with the players and getting their pictures taken with them.

“All in all, they did a fantastic job.”