I usually forego reading Peter FitzSimons because he merely rides a high horse down the middle of the road, but I relented this week as he joined the ‘let’s revive North Sydney’ bandwagon.
The thrust of FitzSimons’ argument was that the Bears brand is still around – by which metric you’d first revive the Newtown Jets – and that by expanding their pawprint to the Central Coast, you’d have the requisite number of fans to ensure a thriving club.
“Half their home games could be played at North Sydney Oval, the other half to be played at the second most beautiful field in the country, at the old Grahame Park (now Central Coast Stadium), right by Gosford Water,” FitzSimons wrote on Thursday.
Now I’m going to nitpick a small issue with the above sentence – not just because I’m a pedant, but because it’s illustrative of the real solution to the Bears’ problem.
Central Coast Stadium isn’t right by Gosford Water – it is next to water in Gosford, but that’s not the name of the barrier estuary the city is situated upon.
No, the former Bluetongue Stadium sits on Brisbane Water, which is either a lazy lack of research or an intentional error to distract from the fact that if you want to revive the Bears, you’re not going to do it anywhere near Sydney.
The club needs to get serious about relocating – and an hour up the road isn’t going to cut it. A red-and-black comeback only has legs if the body of water they’re set to play near is the Brisbane River, not Brisbane Water.
Peter V’landys has been forthright about his preference for having a game of footy played at Suncorp Stadium every week, which a second Brisbane team facilitates.
Of course, the beauty of that second team being the Brisbane Bears – rather than the mooted Brisbane Bombers – is that the Bears do have that established brand and a core of fans who are eager to see them return to the league.
And while most of those former fans wouldn’t travel up to Queensland for home games, they’d be well accommodated six(ish) rounds a year by opposition Sydney teams. No, it isn’t as good as a dozen a year at your home ground, but it’s the same number and for the same amount of travel as if half your games are played on the Central Coast.
Granted, Sydney fans are notoriously poor at turning out for live sport, but then isn’t that how North Sydney supporters ended up in this mess in the first place? FitzSimons may claim Bears fans are “still there”, but the fact they attracted an average of 9217 per home game in their final standalone season illustrates why they went bust in the first place.
If rusted-on fans exist, the club needs a lot more of them than North Sydney – even with its thriving CBD – can provide. Brisbane offers that opportunity.
As for the common suggestion that a Brisbane team needs to be from Brisbane, well, how do we know? The Broncos came from nowhere but established their identity quicksmart and despite some lean years on the field of late they remain the benchmark from a business perspective.
Besides, the Bears have lain dormant for a long enough period of time that anyone under the age of 25 would have no memory of the Sydney factor. Fill the first-grade side up with Queensland talent – and, most importantly, ensure they are winners – and the whole ‘from NSW’ thing would be forgotten pretty quick.
Plus they would be the second Brisbane team the rest of the league actually wants.
Last year Phil Gould made the argument that clubs prefer the opposition they are hosting to have history – think St George, Manly or Souths. Well, what’s better than a foundation club that also performed the greatest Lazarus act of all time?
As for a precedent in terms of a relocated team? How about those fickle Sydneysiders turning South Melbourne – a team from the Harbour City’s sworn enemy – into one of the AFL’s glamour clubs.
Surely a town as mad for rugby league as Brisbane could make the Bears viable.
Ultimately, the Bears as a brand are worth exploring but North Sydney as a home – even with the added extra of playing half their games on the Central Coast – is not.
It was tried, it failed, and Sydney – as I’ve pointed out before – already has too many teams, while Brisbane is short.
Send the Bears to Brisbane and everyone wins.
It is a no-brainer – or, in the words of Peter FitzSimons, “Friends, this is a condescending way to conclude.”