Central Coast and North Sydney – the area the NRL forgot.
It is said there are far too many Sydney teams in the NRL. The South, East and West are all represented. The North is only represented by Manly. Leaving the Greater North unrepresented and forgotten.
It’s not often you hear the words the forgotten North Shore of Sydney. Sydney’s Northern Suburbs are more affiliated with the rich and privileged with private schools more associated with Rah Rah the 15 man game.
Rugby league is a game loved by millions North of the Bridge. Stretching from Milson’s Point and up to the Central Coast and beyond.
The North Sydney Bears were a team beloved by many on Sydney’s North. The perennial bad luck loses. Playing out of the beautiful historic North Sydney Oval.
In 1994, they were a game away from playing a Grand Final and just a few months away from the start of the Super League Wars. The War that would eventually lead to the demise of the Bears.
Since their extinction in 1999, Bears fans have either stopped supporting Rugby League altogether or have little interest in the game. Die hard fans who would have supported a relocated Central Coast Bears if it had eventuated.
The Central Coast were ready to welcome the Bears to their new purpose built stadium in 1999 Unfortunately, this didn’t happen and the Bears were the first collateral damage of the Super League War.
Instead of the Bears, a dysfunctional merger between two bitter rivals from Sydney’s North the Bears and Manly Warringah Sea Eagles were implanted on the Coast in 2000. With neither entity including the Coast ever truly invested the Northern Eagles met their inevitable demise two seasons later.
Manly rose from the ashes and reformed as a single entity again and returned to Brookvale. The Bears were not so fortunate and never recovered leaving their legions of fans and Central Coast League supporters without a team for the past 16 years.
During that time Bears and Coast fans have watched on while the Gold Coast Titans jumped the queue and are continually disappointed that talk of Perth and Brisbane being the next in line instead of the Central Coast Bears being reinstated.
The NRL has no appetite for a Central Coast team. The only hope in reality is a Sydney team relocating. However, with funds from the latest TV deal and the eventual record breaking next deal it is unlikely a Sydney team would ever need to relocate.
This means Sydney’s North and Central Coast could be without representation for decades to come. The Bears live on only as an entity as a feeder club for South Sydney in the NSW Intrust Super Competition.
Desperate to keep the Bears brand alive the Bears explored the option of buying into the Gold Coast Titans and could potentially bid for a Perth expansion team licence in future.
The Bears have also floated an idea of a Promotion / relegation for the NRL. Although the idea has merit it would be highly unlikely to be supported by existing clubs.
Sadly for Bears fans and the Central Coast the reality of having a team in the NRL is almost non existent. The biggest losers of not having a localised NRL team are local families and local Juniors.
The local juniors who can’t represent their area. A region similar to the size of Penrith and greater western Sydney. Albeit, both Manly and Roosters have pathways for local youth out of necessity for their own benefit.
North Sydney and the Central Coast are the forgotten supporters. When the NRL trot out how great the game is going and have pie charts to prove it, let them be reminded that they have an area of Sydney/ Central Coast whom represent their main demographic not represented.
I have suggested that the NRL start a nine’s competition including the Bears. At least this would keep the Bears alive for the interim and give the area representation.
With AFL being very aggressive and progressive with endless supplies of funds, it wouldn’t surprise me that the AFL has a team on the Central Coast before the NRL do. Call me nuts, but it could be decades before a Central Coast team is wanted by the NRL. A lot can happen in that time.
For Central Coast League fans I hope they get an NRL team in the foreseeable future and that team is the Bears.
Tell me what you think! Do you want a team on the Central Coast and should it be the Bears?