The North Sydney Bears believe they'll return to the highest level of competition in Australian rugby league as soon as 2024.

The Bears were a foundation club of the New South Wales Rugby League in 1908, and enjoyed 92 years of top grade competition before they exited the NRL following the 1999 season.

They merged with Manly to form the Northern Sea Eagles in 2000 due to financial struggle, an ill-fated partnership which dissolved in 2002. The Bears never recovered, instead taking up stock in second-tier competition.

Now, the Bears are seeking a serious return to the NRL - and CEO David Perry believes a new two-tier relegation format modeled after the English Super League will be the path to their absolution.

Perry believes there should be two 12-team competitions, with the top two teams from the second-tier competition annually replacing the bottom two teams from the premier competition in a system of relegation.

“I think the relegation system would be an important step for the game,” Perry told

“You need 12 and 12, so 24 key markets, and stricter criteria about those clubs around their funding model which means all of the 24 may not fit the top tier criteria, it may only be 16-18 franchises that make the cut, their catchment areas, their population, and their commercial growth.

“Because currently I believe a lot of clubs haven’t been accountable as much as they should have. They’ve been too reliant on funding from the NRL and haven’t been measurable enough.

“There’s no reason why a club that’s existed for 70 or 80 years, or 40 or 50 years, should have the right to have their brand stay lonesome on their own if they’re not performing at the levels required across the board, they’re not meeting the standards and criteria that the game expects or needs to generate the right amount of funding to survive.

“The relegation system for mine, and those people in the game that have looked at it, is clearly an opportunity for the NRL to spread its wings further in key markets and have those second tier clubs feel more engaged because they are critical and they’re the pathway for the game’s future success.

“The Bears already have more than 200,000 avid fans. As Billy Moore once said, there are 200,000-odd customers ready to be re-engaged, what business doesn’t want to re-engage those?

“So we’d be ready now if an opportunity presented itself and we’re just waiting to get that tap, but if that means preparing for the two-tier model then we’ll have a model the NRL won’t be able to ignore.”

What do you think about Perry's relegation system?

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