SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 12: Blues coach Blues coach Brad Fittler arrives at a New South Wales Blues public reception after winning the 2018 State of Origin series at The Star on July 12, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Both Brad Fittler and Andrew Johns have made some incredible remarks over the weekend, offering up ways of ‘revolutionising’ the NRL.

NSW coach Freddy Fittler has suggested the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles should consider merging with the North Sydney Bears in order to form a ‘behemoth’ club.

The winning State of Origin coach expressed these opinions on the Wide World of Sport program over the weekend, with Joey Johns chiming in with a renewal call for a 12-team competition where ‘only the strong survive’.

Freddy believes the time is right for the two clubs to come together, as it would cover the region from the northern beaches up to the Central Coast.

Fittler said it would be crazy for the two teams not to make it work.

“Anywhere from the Harbour Bridge — take in the Central Coast — that would be such a powerful area and if they could come to some sense you could encapsulate Brookvale Oval, North Sydney Oval and Gosford and have a wonderful, strong club,” Fittler said.

“You’ve got the big business of North Sydney, you’ve got the Peninsula, then you’ve got the people of the Central Coast, the numbers, it would be nearly a behemoth of a club if it had the right administration and the right people behind it.

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“Not only would it be good I think it’s a must for the NRL to look at and this is the time, the time is right now.”

Although, the two clubs have once tried the merger in 2002 with little success, not making the finals in the three years of the joint venture.

With Manly having somewhat of a disastrous season on and off the field, finishing 15th with seven wins, the timing might be right to give it another crack.

The proposed Fittler solution ties in with Joey’s comments of cutting four teams out of the competition and increasing the salary cap.

Johns first expressed these thoughts in early August, but later played down the idea, but now saying nine teams in Sydney is too many and they should explore the option of a second team in Brisbane.

“I’ve got a theory that whatever the salary cap is now, say it’s $9 million; put it up to $12 million and then only the strong survive,” Johns said.

“I’ve said publicly I think we should have a 12-team competition, there’s too many teams in Sydney.

“So if that’s the way you put it up then only the strong survive. The ones that are administered strong, the ones with strong sponsorship, the ones that develop well, and then we get down eventually to 12 teams.

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“(The current competition structure) suits the Broncos because they’ve got all that corporate support — that’s why we need another team in Brisbane. We need a derby in the major cities.”


  1. Nice to see Freddie’s concern for the welfare and future of the Sea Eagles and the hibernating Bears. They tried that once before though but oil and water don’t mix. So perhaps the Roosters should step up to the plate in that case and merge with the Bears? That is IF Freddie really cares more for the game than being Nick Politis’s puppet. Souths did their bit and sat on the sidelines for 2 years allowing both Melbourne and the Warriors an opportunity to grow the game for the NRL and giving the Roosters 2 extra years to try to breach the chasm between the two teams in terms of the number of premiership titles.

    The Dragons merged with Illawarra and Balmain and Wests birthed the new look Tigers. As mentioned the Sea Eagles and the Bears tried a trial marriage which ended in tears so perhaps now it’s the Roosters turn? For the good of the game at least. What do you say Freddie? Or is this all just a cynical exercise (like jumping to secure the title of “Sydney” to secure their place in the competition in the face of forced mergers and relocations so that the game can expand?

    Sorry Freddie, but you really aren’t smart enough to fool anyone, just like with your minor premiers over GF winners ploy. It’s all designed to benefit a club that after 110 years still can’t come out from behind the Rabbitohs shadow. But nice try. Let’s see what Uncle Nick has next in his bag of tricks. 😉

  2. Only the strong survive? Sounds good in theory but what if the 4 teams that fold aren’t in Sydney. Won’t be a national comp then.

    • The NRL will NEVER let the Brisbane Broncos or the Melbourne Storm fold and, for now at least, seem committed to including NZ in an Australian national competition. At present, the ONLY clubs in the firing line I think are the 9 remaining Sydney teams and perhaps the Titans if that franchise is deemed not viable in preference of a team west or north of Brisbane like Toowoomba or Redcliffe. It’s just my opinion but that’s my take on things.

      Btw, Freddie wouldn’t be making those statements “only the strong survive” if there was any chance that the Roosters were in the firing line so I guess Uncle Nick has already worked out a deal in the shadows.

  3. These 2 have both been smoking substances that they shouldn’t be smoking. Obvioulsy Freds memory has been destroyed and has forgotten its already been tried and failed and wont work. So having one really poor season means you need to merge? Then eels should also merge with panthers. Cowboys should relocate to perth. Why didn’t the knights get booted out after 3 wooden spoons in a row? I Didn’t hear johns talking about “only the strong” when knights had no money and before the Wests leagues club bought the knights. Why would manly need to merge with a team that doesn’t even exist in the top league anymore. Just encapsulate the central coast within their own area.

    • “Cowboys should relocate to perth”

      The NRL want more teams in QLD not less. If any team relocates to Perth it will be the Rabbitohs IMO. THAT is why they have been playing so many games over there steadily building a following over the years in case they need a Plan B.

      Having lived on the Central Coast for the last 15 years (until 4 months ago) I can tell you that both Souths and Manly have the biggest supporter base there by a country mile. I think Souths’ following is larger than Manly’s by a bit but they stopped playing their games there a few years back and started focusing more and more on Perth and Cairns.

      From what I have been able to see, Coasties would much prefer to have their OWN team if not the Central Coast Bears then a new entity of their own. However, there is enough support for Manly around the place and not that far for their supporters to travel from the northern beaches. They can berth their yachts at the Koolewong marina (near Woy Woy) and practically walk. 😉

  4. Didnt we also go through this whole “12 team comp” during the stupidleague war and it was decided that 12 is NOT the magic number after all? And what about the effect on TV rights and money in the game if you reduce the games from 8 to 6 per week Andrew?

      • I haven’t seen you around for a while painter. Have you come to give us a spray or to paint the town red? Either way, your attempted whitewash of the Eels needs a “wet paint” warning sign before the Eels jump for the bait and get covered from head to tail and wind up looking like an albino hybrid instead.

  5. Manly should merge with Parra, Norths should be on the central coast and be the Central Coast bears. I mean is just like Blacktown on the water, so they will fit in out west!

    • Don’t get too Rigid there Leaver, I don’t see any sign of that happening. Nothing in common and too great a divide. If the Bears and the Sea Eagles were oil and water Manly and Parra are petrol and a match! But I get your point, you were just trying to burley up and chumming the waters. Happy fishing. 😉

      I do like the idea of the Bears on the Central Coast but then that is addition not subtraction or division. Kind of defeats the purpose but they have my support as long as it isn’t at the expense of the Rabbitohs. Once was enough thank you very much.

  6. Manly have had their shot, destroyed North Sydney & are now self destructing.

    Kick them out & let the Bears back in for this “behemoth” club from the harbour bridge to the Central Coast

    • Most successful team of the modern era buddy we took our shot and have been the best club in the last 15 years. Fact! We annihilated the cheats 40 nil without cheating and no help from the nrl like storm souffs and rorters. If we weren’t cheated out of 2007 and 2013 we would be miles ahead of the rest

      • Manly get NOTHING from the NRL apart from discrimination unlike the NRL pets the Storm, Broncos and Rorters, yet we have still been a very successful club over the last 50 years. Premierships every decade and never receiving the spoon unlike other clubs. So all you manly haters please continue being jealous!

  7. My 12 Teams

    1. South Sydney
    2. Sydney
    3. Melbourne
    4. Newcastle/Central Coast Merger
    5. Canberra/Dragons Merger
    6. Perth
    7. Penrith/Eels Merger
    8. Brisbane Broncos
    9. Brisbane Bombers
    10. New Zealand
    11. North Queensland
    12. Ipswich

    • Perth will have a team before the Central Coast unfortunately and I fear it will be the Rabbitohs. Also I doubt that there will be two teams called Brisbane. The Broncos being in the CBD and having prior claim already have a well established brand and have that title locked up.

      Despite the alliteration of Brisbane Bombers I think there will be a separate regional identity like Toowoomba or Redcliffe or at the very least west/north Brisbane.

      Personally I think it’s a bit rough asking clubs that have already merged to go through that process yet again and forcing clubs to merge with either Manly or the Roosters is like asking someone to share a bed for the night with their mother-in-law. Yeah it’s possible but no one is going to be happy about it and both will sleep with one eye open and a can of mace under their pillow. 😂😂😂

    • Why should souffs be there and not manly? You had 32 years of nothingness while we were winning comps every decade since the 70s. Your club capitulated and were kicked out of the comp. Your in rorters territory you should merge with them and become the sydney city pheasants. We have a massive area all we need is a stadium. So in short manly most successful team of the modern era…. souffs not! Not even close even with thr nrl and the gladiators help. Remember we were the power house club other teams envied… and we will rise AGAIN

      • Because unlike manly, we could have a strong club with the proposed 12million salary cap. manly are struggling both on and off the field. A strong front office makes a strong club. If anything the bunnies could probably merge with the rorters but I definitely defend the decision not to have manly. Would add another Queensland team (sunshine coast)

        • You honestly think the Dogs wouldn’t survive ?
          We are one of the richest clubs in the nrl

          Good luck with that

      • Manly have been great for many years , but now it seems the dream is over, nobody goes to their games anymore, and lets face it, they are struggling big time with finance, not to mention a home ground that is terrible.

        The last time Manly and Norths became partners, Manly were in a great financial position, but not now, a merger with the Bears would be awesome, you would dominate the junior leagues from Manly to the central coast, the old rivery is not the same these days, I believe it would work and be a good thing for rugby league.

        Hopefully something can be done cause Manly need to stay in the comp , there is nothing better than giving it to Manly people to be honest.

        • Exactly who would you hate? Who would you be jealous of and envy? Mocking parra is too easy the nrl needs manly. If we have to merge i dont mind as long as we are still called Manly sea eagles 😉 north Sydney would be lucky enough just joining us 😉

        • “The Angry Eagle” said to say thanks for your vote of confidence for the Sea Eagles. He said that they were one of the leading teams in the competition for decades until the Penn’s dropped the ball and punted Toovey to placate that poonce of a prima donna DCE.

          OK, I may be paraphrasing. The only “P” word he used was “Penn’s”. His actual words could not be posted publically such is his disappointment in Barrett and the clowns running Manly at the moment.

      • Yeah cookeem, that maiden 2016 premiership when the Sharks were over the cap is the one they will talk about in the next 100 years. So what if the Bunnies won 21 premierships before that.

        It’s much better that the NRL retain a club with a 15,548 membership (and only 5,000 at their home games when they aren’t in the top 8) over one that has almost double that number (the Rabbitohs) with 28,896 members and the most recognised RL brand worldwide. Having an Oscar-winning celebrity as the face of RL in the US and around the globe and a billionare backer in James Packer really doesn’t count for much if you don’t have access to steroids.

        Ah, it’s all good cookem mate. You left your stumps open so I couldn’t help myself. I know you were only reacting to a barb (as was I). It’s all good mate. 😉

  8. “We annihilated the cheats 40 nil”

    On Stephen Dank’s c0cktail mix. Don’t forget he was at Manly at the time just before going to the Sharks and getting busted. Do you REALLY think that he was clean before going to the shire? I always found it a little too strange that Manly could beat a team full of international rep talent and big-time players by 40 – 0 in a GF. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it just might be a seagull on a Stephen Dank c0cktail.

  9. Is Fittler serious?The other day he came up with the idea that the team that comes first in the normal season should get extra money into there cap for the next season.So as we have it at the moment under Fittlers plans the roorters should get a bonus 500k on there “cap” for next year.Both Fittler and Johns were amazing players but that dont mean they know whats best for the game.Id like to see the teams they believe should be in the NRL under there plan.I imagine it would include Penrith,Roosters,Newcastle,Brisbane,Melbourne,Nth Qld,Canberra,New Zealand so theres 8 teams leaving 4 spots.Now im no rocket scientist but even i can see a few problems here.Fox arent going to give you the same money for less games nor will 9.Also doing so you will lose alot of fans who are loosing interest in the game from bad managment and the refs.I think theres no problem with 16 teams and realise a few need to relocate,merge or die but if that is the way for the future and best for the game so be it.I love my eels but im not that stupid that for the future Parra needs to merge and it has to be with the bulldogs.Parramatta Bankstown Bulldogs.Easy merge.Brand new stadium,Two huge leagues clubs,Huge junior base .Ask yourself who do you love more,the game or your club?

    • My club! Just ask all the tens of thousand ex north syd supporters who have stopped watching the game since their bears were booted out by NRL

    • @ ParraMatt and ManWar78

      You’re both right but in the end, it doesn’t matter it will come down to a business decision. Souths had the biggest following and the best record in the competition (albeit historically) when they were punted to make way for the Warriors and subsequently Melbourne. Their reintroduction into the competition was due in part to an overwhelming tide of public support that reversed that decision but now the game has stalled and needs to expand or implode and there are simply too many teams in Sydney with too little support.

      I for one will give up the game if Souths are punted, merged or relocated without retaining their identity. But I still accept that that MAY have to happen. Brisbane Broncos and Melbourne Storm are in an enviable and unique position of having a monopoly in a major Australian capital city. As such they are the safest teams in the competition. I understand that even if I resent it because that it means that the burden of change falls on the clubs in Sydney with the greater history and involvement in the game. As Ned Kelly purportedly once said; “Such is life!”

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