The grizzly truth: The North Sydney Bears should remain in hibernation

Tom Rock Columnist

By Tom Rock, Tom Rock is a Roar Expert

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    It’s said that a bear can smell a wounded animal up to 30 kilometres away. That’s nothing. Their little-known cousin, the Bears NRL Consortium, can sense a rugby league club in distress from a distance of three states.

    So it comes as no surprise to hear that the North Sydney Bears are once again on the hunt, this time stalking the injured Gold Coast Titans.

    As a foundation club, North Sydney will always hold a special place in rugby league history. But the Bears last fielded a first-grade side in 1999; for almost 20 years they’ve survived as nothing more than a twinkling in Greg Florimo’s eye.

    An entire generation of NRL fans have grown up without them, so would there be any fans still out there if the beary tale came true?

    In my experience, most definitely yes. A group of mates and I donned retro jerseys for the grand final a few years back. I went with the Bears strip, and from Central to Homebush to Scruffy Murphy’s and beyond, I was lucky if five minutes passed without some bloke thumping me on the back and roaring, “Go the Bears”.

    Handshakes were plentiful, names like Seers, Soden, Ikin and Moore were thrown around, and Mario Fenech even signed my jersey. And just to top it off, as we were getting off the train at Olympic Park station, the driver announced, “Your next station is Olympic Park, enjoy the game and go the mighty Bears”.

    So yeah, they’re out there, deep in hibernation. But what would it take to draw them out of their cave? Their team won’t return to North Sydney, so would the fans want their beloved franchise packed up and shipped off to the Gold Coast?

    This can be a polarising topic. From the perspective of North Sydney fans, how can you expect them to passionately support a team they only see a couple of times a year? A team without a visible presence in their local community?

    You can drape the players in red and black, slap a snarling Kodiak on their jersey, and even plaster North Sydney Leagues Club with Jarryd Hayne posters, but it’s just not the same. It would never feel like their team.

    And assuming there are any rugby league supporters on the Gold Coast, how would they feel? They’ve already suffered through more rebrandings than Pepsi, so the idea of having yet another team forced upon them would be downright unbearable. They feel no pride in the rich traditions of the famous North Sydney club, and have no sense of nostalgia at the idea of the Bears re-joining the NRL.

    To me, relocating this proud foundation club to the Gold Coast (or anywhere else for that matter) is a no-win situation. While I hate to be the bearer of bad news, the North Sydney Bears simply cannot survive outside of their natural habitat.

    If and when the NRL greenlights expansion or relocation, let’s give the new city their own team, and let them build their own heritage and tradition.

    Todd Greenberg

    Home-grown halves: The waiting is the hardest part
    You don’t win a Telstra Premiership without quality in the halves. Run your eyes over the list of recent grand final combatants, and in each and every case, the team that hoisted the Provan-Summons Trophy was led around the park by a dominant number 6 or 7.

    If you’re in charge of building a football team, your first priority must always be to find a halfback, regardless of the cost. It’s why the likes of Daly Cherry-Evans and Ben Hunt signed contracts paying them over $1 million per season, despite questions surrounding their value.

    It’s also why Todd Carney continues to generate interest from NRL clubs, despite a having the longest rap sheet since Julian O’Neill.

    Established halves don’t often hit the open market, and when they do, most teams don’t have the salary cap space to accommodate their obscene asking price. The alternative approach is to develop your own playmaker, which is where several clubs find themselves at the moment.

    But how long do you wait for potential to transform into production? How much patience do you show a young playmaker before you move on and try again? Is there any way to predict if a playmaker is likely to succeed?

    Looking at the current top halves in the game, I’ve done a quick back of the envelope analysis to find out. First a disclaimer: this is a completely subjective evaluation, the sort of crude analysis usually reserved for Berejiklian Government decisions or Australian Test team selections. So all you statisticians out there, pitchforks away, please.

    My analysis tells me that success isn’t determined by how many games you play, the strength of your team, or even the ability of your halves partner. It’s all about opportunity; the vast majority of today’s elite halves elevated their game during their first full season starting in the 6 or 7 jumper.

    Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston each won the Dally M Halfback of the Year award in their first season as a starting halfback. Mitchell Pearce made the NSW team in his first full season as the Rooster number 7, and James Maloney flourished during his first season running the show at the Warriors.

    More recently, we’ve watched Corey Norman take the next step in his career as the Eels primary playmaker, Ash Taylor take ownership of the Titans halfback position in his debut season, and Anthony Milford come within seconds of winning a grand final in his first season in the 6.

    Broncos player Anthony Milford

    Opportunity is the key. So what does this mean for the current crop of young halves? For those entering their first full season starting in the 6 or 7, like Nathan Cleary, Te Marie Martin and Brock Lamb, it means their development this year may be a good indication of their long-term career trajectory.

    For others entering their second and third season, such as Mitchell Moses, Luke Brooks and Moses Mbye, perhaps it means that there simply isn’t more than meets the eye. Perhaps we shouldn’t expect these talented youngsters to transform into anything more than solid footballers, and perhaps they might not be the long-term halves solution their respective teams are hoping for.

    I’m sure there are plenty of holes in my theory and countless examples of halves who slowly developed their game over the course of their career. But as a Newcastle supporter, a club deeply invested in junior development, I’m always looking for a reason to think that we’ve invested in the right players.

    Fifth tackle option
    Here are five quick thoughts on the action from Round 3:

    1. Well, it was fun while it lasted. After making promises about cracking down on deliberate tactics to slow down the speed of the ruck, the referees reverted back to the old “final warning” approach. Fair dinkum, I think Brisbane received more “final warnings” during the last 20 minutes of their loss to the Storm than my two-year-old cops at bathtime each night.

    2. However, I can understand the reluctance of referees to use the sin bin more frequently. Newcastle scored ten points while George Burgess was off the field, so reducing a team to 12 men can have a significant impact on a game. With the contest still in the balance, like it was in Melbourne on Thursday night, sending a player to the sin bin may very well determine the outcome of a match.

    3. Last three games: Canberra Raiders 158 – Wests Tigers 22.

    4. Who taught Kane Elgey to tackle? Mitchell Moses? The Titans halfback has missed 17 tackles in only three games, putting him on track to miss 136 for the year. He’ll certainly give James Maloney a nudge as the game’s biggest turnstile in 2017.

    5. An incident in the Titans versus Eels game caught my eye. Midway through the second half, Ryan James was pushed in the back, causing him to slump to the turf. The incident looked innocuous enough, and I thought James was simply pushing for a penalty. So I was shocked when he left the field shortly after via the concussion protocol, which isn’t counted towards a team’s interchange limit.

    James returned to the field after a brief period in the sheds and finished the game. I’m not questioning the integrity of James or the Titans’ medical staff, but it was certainly convenient.

    Follow Tom on Twitter @_TomRock_

    Tom Rock
    Tom Rock

    A fair-weather Newcastle Knights fan, Tom doesn?t leave anything on the field. He always gives 110% and never forgets to give full credit to the boys. But in a game of two halves, it?s important not to look too far ahead, so Tom?s just taking it one week at a time. Follow him on Twitter @_TomRock_.

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    The Crowd Says (117)

    • March 20th 2017 @ 6:47am
      Silvertail47 said | March 20th 2017 @ 6:47am | ! Report

      I like this , I think also should the bears return there games be reduced to 70 mins , it’s only fair , they’d struggle to win the silverware if they were expected to play the full 80 like everyone else

      • Columnist

        March 20th 2017 @ 8:10am
        Tom Rock said | March 20th 2017 @ 8:10am | ! Report

        Good idea. Bring back the 5 metre rule when they are defending as well. Only fair.

      • March 20th 2017 @ 9:13am
        Kurt said | March 20th 2017 @ 9:13am | ! Report

        The bears will start winning silverware when manly starts paying its bills

      • March 20th 2017 @ 9:32am
        Silvertail47 said | March 20th 2017 @ 9:32am | ! Report

        What bills exactly Kurt ? My understanding is that it’s the bears who couldn’t cough up hence there extinction, Wolly Mammoths will walk the earth before Norths return

        • March 20th 2017 @ 10:25am
          Kurt said | March 20th 2017 @ 10:25am | ! Report

          The eagles have struggled to pay rates for the last 3 years atleast. And that is only from 2 minutes off looking. To add to that why did they partake in the merger if they were financial sound.
          Finally the bears were pushed out on a 4m dollar debt. The debt included the building of a stadium that was 6 months overdue and the nrl and manly did them over

          • March 22nd 2017 @ 6:27am
            NSWelshman said | March 22nd 2017 @ 6:27am | ! Report

            before you post garbage get your facts straight! The North Sydney RLFC was bankrupt before the Superleague War began! The expenses involved in retaining their player roster sent them to the brink of extinction! After being advised they could no longer survive financially they were offered a partnership with Manly who, at the time, agreed to take on their accounts & debts. Unfortunately the Superleague war had it’s toll on Manly’s finances also & after a year of the merger it was fold or stop propping up the North Sydney side of things…….if it wasn’t for Manly the Bears would have folded long before! DO NOT blame Manly for the demise of your North Sydney Bears……blame the useless administration. I’m sick of sour people like you blaming everything on Manly because your club couldn’t get it’s act into gear!!

        • March 20th 2017 @ 10:57am
          Silvertail47 said | March 20th 2017 @ 10:57am | ! Report

          Sorry Kurt you need to get your info from better sources than wiki , you will find only 2 clubs made a profit especially last year ,TRUTH be knowen Raiders lost more coin than Manly in 2016 , there’s no room for the bears and you shouldn’t be so negative,a Manly membership will cheer you up , do it for the sake of your children , who pays bills on time anyway , I certainly don’t and it’s no reflection of my yearly salary,

          • March 20th 2017 @ 11:29am
            Kurt said | March 20th 2017 @ 11:29am | ! Report

            Ill happly push my kids to the mariners and tahs then deal with the NRL. I lost my team at 12. I took up rugby at 13

          • March 20th 2017 @ 12:10pm
            Kurt said | March 20th 2017 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

            Ill happly push my kids to the mariners and tahs then deal with the NRLs dirty business. I lost my team at 12. I took up rugby at 13

            • Columnist

              March 20th 2017 @ 7:56pm
              Tom Rock said | March 20th 2017 @ 7:56pm | ! Report

              Kurt, please for the sake of your children, don’t inflict a lifetime of being a Tahs supporter on them. No one deserves that kind of pain.

              • March 20th 2017 @ 9:11pm
                Kurt said | March 20th 2017 @ 9:11pm | ! Report

                Im a bears supporter i know pain

              • Columnist

                March 20th 2017 @ 9:14pm
                Tom Rock said | March 20th 2017 @ 9:14pm | ! Report

                GO THE MIGHTY BEARS!

              • March 21st 2017 @ 3:42pm
                The Koomz said | March 21st 2017 @ 3:42pm | ! Report

                Kurt brother, I know your pain. Bears for life!

    • March 20th 2017 @ 7:28am
      Jeff dustby said | March 20th 2017 @ 7:28am | ! Report

      There will be 2 or 3 loud bears supporters that come and disagree. They clearly didn’t pass the NRL criteria and they have been a minor loss

      • Columnist

        March 20th 2017 @ 8:10am
        Tom Rock said | March 20th 2017 @ 8:10am | ! Report

        Morning Jeff. The push to get them back into the NRL is some shape or form does seem to be led by a couple of powerful players, but I’m just not sure what your average, grizzled Bears fan on the street would want.

        • March 21st 2017 @ 11:02am
          Alex said | March 21st 2017 @ 11:02am | ! Report

          As a diehard Bears fan, who has spoken to many of my other diehard Bears fans, the consensus is that we don’t care where they are based, as long as they are red and black and called the Bears.

          The 5 or 6 away games we would play here would be enough (plus likely be a great draw for those Sydney clubs given that Bears fans would come crawling out of the woodwork for the first few seasons at the least). However, that was never the problem. The problem would be community acceptance up in Qld, and considering Flo won’t let the Gosford dream die the death it desperately needs, along with everything else, that is unlikely as it stands.

          Paul Kent’s idea of moving the Bears brand as part of the expansion has some merit, but let’s be honest: We are not coming back, and part of me just wishes that this would stop coming up, because having our hope rekindled, only for it to be crushed, time and time again is a punishment us Bears fans do not deserve.

          Losing our club was traumatic enough, the dangling of the NRL carrot just out of reach for almost 2 decades is cruel and unusual punishment.

    • March 20th 2017 @ 8:12am
      AGO74 said | March 20th 2017 @ 8:12am | ! Report

      I remember the March to save south Sydney when they were punted. Don’t remember an equivalent for north sydney. The bears are a bit like the Chicago Cubs who (until last year) were famous for a century of being loveable losers. You kind of liked them/felt sorry for them because you were never threatened by them. Putting them on the Gold Coast would be the death knell of both organisations. Newtown has done well reinventing itself as a hipster club with Saturday park footy. The Bears could do something similar…

      • Columnist

        March 20th 2017 @ 8:17am
        Tom Rock said | March 20th 2017 @ 8:17am | ! Report

        I know what you mean. They were everybody’s second favourite team, including mine. But you’re right, it’s not like they came out on mass to support their club like the Rabbitohs fans did. I would have expected, from Wahroonga to Waverton, people swapping boaters for studs, ripping off their polo shirts for the famous red and black, and marching down military road.

      • Roar Rookie

        March 20th 2017 @ 8:31am
        eels47 said | March 20th 2017 @ 8:31am | ! Report

        What a turnaround for Newtown hey. I wonder how Tommy feels about them being a hipster club. My younger sister loves them, has jersey, hat etc and goes to all the home games with her inner west friends, yet she has always been far from a rugby league girl. They have done a great job reinventing themselves, even as a park footy team and have a loyal bunch of followers down at Henson Park.

        • Roar Guru

          March 20th 2017 @ 8:43am
          Magnus M. Østergaard said | March 20th 2017 @ 8:43am | ! Report

          The talk around the Jets has made me want to actually go down to one of their games! They seem to have done a great job recognising their place in the rugby league world.

          • Columnist

            March 20th 2017 @ 8:48am
            Tom Rock said | March 20th 2017 @ 8:48am | ! Report

            What do you reckon Vinny, Jets v Bears old boys exhibition match? Give the fans one more opportunity to see someone put a shot on Ben Ikin?

          • March 20th 2017 @ 11:47am
            E-Meter said | March 20th 2017 @ 11:47am | ! Report

            It’s well worth watching a game. Stretch out on the big hill and have a cold can in the winter sun. After the game, straight back to the Henson Park Hotel.

        • Columnist

          March 20th 2017 @ 8:47am
          Tom Rock said | March 20th 2017 @ 8:47am | ! Report

          Mate, I have lived around Surry Hills for the better part of the last decade, so I have absolutely no problem with hipsters (apart from the beards…). They make excellent coffee and unique milkshake flavours. I would not be surprised if attending a Jets game is now ‘on trend’

          • March 20th 2017 @ 9:18am
            AGO74 said | March 20th 2017 @ 9:18am | ! Report

            Yes I enjoy the coffee and boutique beer – but the very tight pantss are concerning.

          • Roar Rookie

            March 20th 2017 @ 9:49am
            eels47 said | March 20th 2017 @ 9:49am | ! Report

            I hear ya mate. Good coffee and beer yes, but the beards, tight pants and designer flannos are too much.

            I agree Vince, the Jets have accepted that they are a NSW cup team and embraced it, they still sell merchandise (saw a pub in Marrickville selling it), and like I said have a loyal following.

            • Columnist

              March 20th 2017 @ 10:34am
              Tom Rock said | March 20th 2017 @ 10:34am | ! Report

              I have noticed my own pants are becoming quite tight, but I’m not sure that’s by design. Probably something to do with that pizza shop which opened around the corner.

              • Roar Rookie

                March 20th 2017 @ 11:01am
                eels47 said | March 20th 2017 @ 11:01am | ! Report

                Run by hipsters no doubt? If you can’t beat ’em join ’em?

              • Columnist

                March 20th 2017 @ 11:03am
                Tom Rock said | March 20th 2017 @ 11:03am | ! Report

                I did question the use of kale and activated almonds as a topping. Should have known…

          • March 20th 2017 @ 7:08pm
            Big Daddy said | March 20th 2017 @ 7:08pm | ! Report

            What about the weeds in the back yard.
            I bet they don’t have the victa over them .

    • March 20th 2017 @ 8:14am
      AGO74 said | March 20th 2017 @ 8:14am | ! Report

      Oh – the 5 minute sinbin has to be brought back for repeated infringements. The irony is in the example you cite Where Knights score 10 points in 10 minutes – burgess should have been sent off not sin binned.

      • Roar Guru

        March 20th 2017 @ 8:53am
        Mark Young said | March 20th 2017 @ 8:53am | ! Report

        Agreed – It was a thuggish act and he was lucky to only get 10.

        Benji Marshall recommended the touch football/ice hockey solution to repeated infringements:
        The play is removed for a period of time (say 5 minutes) BUT they return to the field immediately if the opposition scores a try.

        At worst, you are a player short and have a try scored against you for a professional foul.

        • Columnist

          March 20th 2017 @ 8:56am
          Tom Rock said | March 20th 2017 @ 8:56am | ! Report

          Maybe we should go the full ice hockey route. Stop the play, get the boys the trade haymakers for a couple of minutes, and then on with the show.

          • Roar Guru

            March 20th 2017 @ 9:18am
            Magnus M. Østergaard said | March 20th 2017 @ 9:18am | ! Report

            I would agree with this if they both went to the bin for 10. Non powerplay.

    • March 20th 2017 @ 8:33am
      Steve said | March 20th 2017 @ 8:33am | ! Report

      The Bears were duded in the criteria as they should have been exempt from it as they did what the NRL wanted and relocated to the central coast.

      However too much time has passed now and living on the central coast and working with juniors most kids all want to be Roosters with that club developing the junior league down here and having a NRL match once a year which will hopefully grow too 2.

      Another thing and it pains me to say it is that the Central Coast can’t sustain a full time club. There just is not enough money and sponsorship down here, what the Roosters do is perfect. Give kids a pathway and also being 1 to 2 games here a year.

      • Columnist

        March 20th 2017 @ 8:50am
        Tom Rock said | March 20th 2017 @ 8:50am | ! Report

        Agreed. Lack of corporate $$$ doomed the Central Coast bid.

      • March 20th 2017 @ 10:25am
        Tigranes said | March 20th 2017 @ 10:25am | ! Report

        Steve

        how come the Mariners are going so well then?

        • Columnist

          March 20th 2017 @ 10:35am
          Tom Rock said | March 20th 2017 @ 10:35am | ! Report

          Are the Mariners doing well financially?

          • Roar Guru

            March 20th 2017 @ 10:53am
            peeeko said | March 20th 2017 @ 10:53am | ! Report

            crowds have disappeared too

      • March 20th 2017 @ 7:10pm
        Big Daddy said | March 20th 2017 @ 7:10pm | ! Report

        Good point but who can sustain a full time club these days.
        None of them have any money.

    • March 20th 2017 @ 8:34am
      Agent11 said | March 20th 2017 @ 8:34am | ! Report

      I feel for Bears fans but the NRL has moved on from them. The NRL can’t afford another change of brand on the gold coast and its aim is to build up the younge fanbase in that region, not appease men from the north shore of sydney who would be in their 40s, 50 and 60s now.

      • March 20th 2017 @ 8:51am
        Silvertail47 said | March 20th 2017 @ 8:51am | ! Report

        A stadium were an entire section is devoted to wheelchair access, a full time wheel in medical centre , and naps at halftime ,,, could work

      • Columnist

        March 20th 2017 @ 8:55am
        Tom Rock said | March 20th 2017 @ 8:55am | ! Report

        Yep, agree 100%. The Gold Coast is Australia’s 6th largest city, with a population of >600,000 people. Around 50% of those people are aged under 40, which is largely the NRL’s target demographic. So they aren’t walking away from this region in a hurry. Like the AFL did with the Swans, the NRL just needs to stick with the Titans, give them whatever support they need, because it will pay off in the long run.

        • March 20th 2017 @ 9:08am
          Kurt said | March 20th 2017 @ 9:08am | ! Report

          But how much money do you give before you say wheres the profit. Of do you do like the nrl does fo manly and subsidise them for the next 30 years?

          • Roar Guru

            March 20th 2017 @ 9:18am
            Magnus M. Østergaard said | March 20th 2017 @ 9:18am | ! Report

            They would have exactly the same problem going back to the Bears. Besides, would you support the Gold Coast Bears who represent the Bears in name only?

        • March 20th 2017 @ 9:16am
          AGO74 said | March 20th 2017 @ 9:16am | ! Report

          After 5 or 6 years in the wilderness (which in years gone by would have seen them fold) we’ve started to see the Titans regain an identity. Friday’s win over the eels was another example of this identity. Now that the Titans are gaining some traction (notwithstanding the Hayne teething issues) the NRL are not gonna ditch them or rebrand them now.

        • March 20th 2017 @ 8:32pm
          Your kidding said | March 20th 2017 @ 8:32pm | ! Report

          The Bears weren’t my second favourite team. Not even my third,fourth or fifth!
          They were chopped years ago for a reason. Not enough support. Half of the NRL clubs at the moment haven’t enough support. Can’t afford to carry any more baggage. They can’t sell the Titans or Knights , what does that tell you.
          Time to consolidate the competition and at least get the Sydney clubs back to strength.

        • March 21st 2017 @ 4:48am
          Jeff Morris said | March 21st 2017 @ 4:48am | ! Report

          I don’t see the appeal of the name Titans though. A cuddly bear would appeal to children.

      • March 20th 2017 @ 9:06am
        Kurt said | March 20th 2017 @ 9:06am | ! Report

        Im 30 and a supporter of the bear

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