North Sydney Bears

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North Sydney Bears
North Sydney Bears Logo.png
Full name North Sydney District Rugby League Football Club
Nickname(s) The Shoremen
The Mounties
The Bears
Founded 7 February 1908 (foundation club)
League(s) NSWRL, ARL, NRL, New South Wales Cup
1999 14th of 17

The North Sydney Bears are an Australian rugby league football club based in North Sydney, New South Wales. They compete in the New South Wales Cup, having exited the National Rugby League following the 1999 NRL season after 92 years of top-grade competition. The Bears are based on Sydney's Lower North Shore, and have played at North Sydney Oval since 1910. There is a bid supporting a resurrection of the club in the NRL as the Central Coast Bears, based in Gosford, New South Wales.[1]

The club was established in 1908, making it one of the original founding members of the New South Wales Rugby Football League, and one of Australia's first rugby league football clubs. North Sydney continued competing with some success in the first half of the 20th century in the NSWRL, and through the ARL and NRL premierships until they merged with Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles to form the Northern Eagles for the 2000 season. The merged club lasted only until 2002 when it split again, with the Bears not returning to first grade and being represented at the highest order in the NSWRL competition the second-tier rugby league competition, where they continue to play today.

North Sydney are presently in partnership with the Rabbitohs serving as Souths' reserve grade side. Until the end of season 2009, Souths were coached by the Bears' record-breaking top points scorer, Jason Taylor.


North Sydney was formed as a foundation club of the newly arrived rugby league game in 1908 and were known as the Shoremen. Like the other Sydney district clubs, Norths were largely born from players and officials from the local Rugby Union club, Northern Suburbs Rugby Club. The club initially struggled to obtain access to North Sydney Oval, but council obstruction was removed and the Shoremen played their first real home game in 1910. Many good players such as Andy Morton, Jimmy Devereaux and Sid Deane were lost to English clubs in the years after making the semi-finals in the season of 1908.

They were nearly dropped from the competition during World War I because of dwindling spectator numbers. Towards the end of the war, Norths' fortunes improved, playing quality and spectators numbers increased and they won 2 premierships in 1921–22 coached by Chris McKivat. Unfortunately, these would be their last first grade premierships and their last grand final appearance was in 1943.[2] when an injury riddled North Sydney were beaten by Newtown 34–7. North Sydney's Captain-coach in the Grand Final of 1943 was the future doyen of rugby league broadcasters, Frank Hyde. Hyde, who was living in Lane Cove at the time, had been forced to switch from Balmain to Norths in 1941 due to the leagues residency rules which stated that a player was required to live in their clubs district. As Lane Cove was in North Sydney's district, the club protested to the NSWRFL and claimed Hyde from Balmain.

The team became known as the North Sydney Bears during the 1950s after accepting a sponsorship from the nearby Big Bear supermarket at Neutral Bay.

The 1952 season saw North Sydney reach the finals for the first time since 1943.[3]

The Bears continued to make appearances in the finals during the next few decades, and produced arguably the greatest winger the game has ever seen in Ken Irvine. Irvine still hold the record for most first grade tries for one club (171).

New South Wales representative Queenslander, Bruce Walker, captained the Bears in the final of the 1976 Amco Cup.

The nineties saw finals appearances and near misses in 1991, and 1993–1998. On 14 July 1994 the club was fined $87,000 for breaching the salary cap.[4] That year they came within one match of the grand final.

North Sydney remained loyal to the Australian Rugby League during the Super League war of the mid-1990s. In the 1996 ARL season the Bears came within one match of the Grand Final.

The following year saw two separate national rugby league championships, and confirmation of the club's intention to move north to New South Wales' Central Coast.[5] By the start of the 1999 NRL season the future looked bright, with plans for the move north well underway, but one unfortunate and apparently non-negotiable outcome of the Super League war's peace deal was a criterion designed to reduce the number of teams in the NRL to fourteen.

Northern Eagles[edit]

Main article: Northern Eagles

Due to having a debt of around $4 million, the North Sydney club were not even considered for the NRL's inclusion criteria. The $4 million would be laughed at in modern era where clubs like Cronulla, West Tigers, the Warriors and the Gold Coast have all had significantly larger debts.[citation needed] After some deliberation and the rights of the members of the football club handed over to avoid an embarrassing 'NO' vote on the merger question.[citation needed] The Save the Bears campaign team fought valiantly for the club, many would be unaware[citation needed] that the STB linked up and helped start the fight for South Sydney to be re-admitted into the NRL. Sadly[citation needed] the STB were out-muscled by the "Red and Black" who despite championing the beloved red and black delivered Norths to Manly thus the Northern Eagles was born. The name Northern Eagles had little relevance to North Sydney with many people feeling the word Northern represented the Northern Beaches and not the word Norths or North used to describe North Sydney since 1908. The word Eagles reflected the Eagle or Sea Eagle of the Manly club and had nothing to do with the beloved Bear mascot of the North Sydney club. The originally mooted Northern Phoenix was dismissed by the dominant Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles faction. The team colours were largely based on the old Manly colours, another reason Bears' fans used to refuse to support the joint venture.[citation needed]

The joint venture club played out of North Power Stadium (now BlueTongue Stadium) at Gosford, a ground successfully lobbied for and built the Bears and Brookvale Oval, but poor on-field performances and factional fighting led to the collapse of the Northern Eagles in 2002, after only three years. Bears fans' worst fears were realised when the Northern Eagles' licence then reverted to Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, leaving the foundation club out of the top flight of rugby league in Australia after more than 90 years.

The North Sydney football club was effectively killed off despite building the only new football stadium in NSW in a generation, taking the game to a new area in the Central Coast and attempting to maintain a link to Sydney's north shore and the foundation club that built the game.

The New South Wales Cup[edit]

North Sydney play in the second-tier NSW Cup competition, serving as the reserve side for the South Sydney Rabbitohs. They have also been affiliated with the Warriors and the Storm in the past. In the 2007 NSWRL Premier League the North Sydney Bears made the Grand Final facing off against Sydney rivals Parramatta. They were beaten 20-15 by Weller Hauraki, scoring a controversial try with just 13 seconds to go, which many believed should not have been allowed due to a forward pass. North Sydney finished the 2008 season as NSW Cup minor premiers and were eliminated in the finals in straight sets. In 2009 the Bears lost to Balmain Tigers in extra time to miss out on the Grand Final 19–18. 2010 was a poor season for the Bears, who received the wooden spoon. However this was turned around in the 2011 season with the Bears reaching the preliminary final and losing to eventual premiers the Canterbury Bulldogs. Deon Apps and Curtis Johnston represented the Bears in the 2012 NSW Residents side with Curtis Johnston finishing up leading try scorer for the competition by end of round 26 with 28 tries. 2012 saw the Bears make the semi finals, missing out on the minor premiership by points differential to the Bulldogs. They lost their first semi final to Newcastle Knights but had a chance to remain in the running of the competition the week after only to give up a 24–6 lead to the Newtown Jets and lose in extra time 32-30 from a Daniel Mortimer 35-metre penalty goal. The Newtown Jets went on to beat Balmain Tigers in the 2012 NSW Cup Grand Final. In 2013, the Bears recorded several large victories in the regular season and finished third. They defeated the Newcastle Knights 32-28 in the first week of the finals, and were then eliminated by minor premiers and eventual NSW Cup premiers the Cronulla Sharks in the preliminary final, who recorded a convincing 38-6 win. This was the third consecutive season that the Bears had been eliminated in the finals by the team which would eventually win the premiership. After three consecutive top four finishes, season 2014 was a horror year for the Bears, who recorded only two wins throughout the entire season and finished with the wooden spoon, eight points below the second-last placed Manly Warringah. Season 2015 saw a strong improvement as the Bears won nine games throughout the season and returned to the NSW Cup finals, only to be eliminated by the Bulldogs in Week One, and finished eighth.

The Bears have won eight premierships in reserve grade, making them the second most successful club currently participating in the competition. They last won a premiership in 1993, defeating Newcastle in the grand final 5-4. The Bears have also been the only team to have participated in every season of reserve grade since the competition's inception in 1908.

The Central Coast Bears[edit]

Main article: Central Coast Bears

There is a movement for a return to first-grade Rugby League for the once proud club, with the North Sydney Bears moving to Gosford (on the Central Coast, New South Wales) and becoming the Central Coast Bears. The Bears bid committee is lobbying the NRL for inclusion as the next expansion team. They are headed up by Perry Lopez and Greg Florimo and has the corporate backing of a number of local Central Coast and some North Shore businesses. The proposed team would play 11 games in Gosford and 1 game at North Sydney Oval (obviously against Manly as part of a heritage or rivalry round). North Sydney legend David Fairleigh is proposed to become the inaugural coach. Prominent rugby league personalities who have publicly backed the club include Phil Gould, Andrew Johns and Peter Sterling while support has also come from as high up as Federal Treasurer and North Sydney MP Joe Hockey.[6][7]

Bears fan Alan McLoughlin, a Central Coast resident, has set up a Facebook petition to bring the Bears to Gosford.[8] It has been speculated that the revived foundation club, the North Sydney District Rugby League Football Club, would form part of the Central Coast Bears consortium with several private investors. These are the two other Sydney Rugby League clubs which shared common geographic borders with the Bears, across The Spit and across Sydney Harbour respectively, for much of their existence. These are the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles and the Sydney Roosters, respectively.

The Central Coast Bears have initiated programs with local juniors and schools playing rugby league in the region and have been a big hit with the kids. The Central Coast Bears have 7200 financial members with continuous new members joining weekly. They were aiming for 5000 by March 2011, when the official bid is handed in to the NRL but have since passed that mark in 2010, Mortgage House signed a three-year deal to sponsor the Central Coast Bears, they are also the major jersey sponsor for the Bears. Ken Sayer, CEO of Mortgage House, plans to underwrite the bid for $10 million to help ensure their financial equity is shored up when the bid is submitted.[9] Both major political parties support the Central Coast Bears bid, with Labor supporting the bid by granting $100,000 for the Bears,[10] and the Liberal party supporting the bid by promising to acquire land at Mt Penang, Central Coast, NSW to build a state of the art, Sports Centre of Excellence should the Liberals win the upcoming election.[11]

With weekly membership drives and ongoing community involvement, the Central Coast Bears are targeting entry into the NRL in 2015.[12] However, with the NRL CEO Dave Smith not due to make an announcement on expansion until the end of the 2014 season, it seems more likely that the Bears and other clubs seeking entry to the NRL, such as the West Coast Pirates, will not be playing their first season until 2017.

North Sydney Leagues Club[edit]

Rebranded as norths, the North Sydney Leagues Club was established by the district's football club, the North Sydney Bears, in 1955 in a house in the Sydney suburb of Neutral Bay. In 1964 the club moved to new premises, its current location, in Abbott Street, Cammeray.

In the fifty years the new building has stood, a number of redesigns and refurbishments have taken place. In 2014 facilities comprised two dining areas, function rooms, a 530-seat auditorium, a fitness and wellness centre, indoor and outdoor lounge areas, a bottle shop, a TAB, two squash courts, a courtesy bus service, a members rewards program and a multi-level car park for 320 vehicles. Membership in 2016 stood at 21,500.

In 1996 norths merged with the North Sydney Bowling Cub, which was established in 1888 and is the second oldest club (by one day) in Australia. This Bowling Club was transformed and re-branded as The Greens North Sydney in November 2014. Norths also amalgamated with seagulls Club, a border club at Tweed Heads on the far north coast of New South Wales, the oldest provincial rugby league club in Australia.[13]

Team of the Century[edit]

On 26 August 2006 the club announced their "Team of the Century".[14]

Position Player
FB Brian Carlson
WG Ken Irvine
CE Jim Devereux
CE Greg Florimo
WG Harold Horder
FE Tim Pickup
HB Jason Taylor
PR Gary Larson
HK Ross Warner
PR Billy Wilson
SR David Fairleigh
SR Mark Graham
LK Peter Diversi
Bench Sid Deane
Bench Ken McCaffery
Bench Billy Moore
Bench John Gray
Coach Chris McKivat

Former players of note[edit]


^Did not play first grade for North Sydney, instead played junior representative rugby league for North Sydney after their fold from the NRL


^ Did not play first grade for Norths

Club records[edit]

Club records[edit]

5 Biggest Wins

Biggest Loss

Highest Points

Highest Score Conceded

Most Tries for the club

Most Goals for the club

Most Points for the club

  • 1,274, Jason Taylor (32 tries, 563 goals, 20 field goals) in 147 games (1994-1999)

Most Points in a season

  • 242, Jason Taylor (10 tries, 98 goals, 6 field goals) in 1997

Most Consecutive Wins

  • 9 matches, 24 July 1920 – 14 May 1921
  • 9 matches, 13 June – 14 August 1994

Most Consecutive Losses

  • 12 matches, 3 June – 26 August 1979

Home and Away Attendances

  • 47,398 at Sydney Cricket Ground vs St George on 9 May 1959
  • 23,089 at North Sydney Oval vs Manly on 13 May 1994

Finals Attendance Record

  • 60,922 at Sydney Cricket Ground vs Newtown on 4 September 1943 NSWRFL Grand Final

Club honours[edit]

Premierships: (2) 1921, 1922

Runners-Up: (1) 1943

Minor Premierships: (2) 1921, 1922

Finals Appearances: 1908, 1921, 1922, 1928, 1935, 1936, 1943, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1964, 1965, 1982, 1991, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998

Undefeated Season: 1921 (8 games: 7 wins 1 draw)

Reserve Grade Premierships: 1940, 1942, 1955, 1959, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993

Third Grade Premiership [and equivalent competitions]: 1937, 1945, 1946, 1959

President's Cup: 1918, 1933

H 'Jersey' Flegg Memorial Trophy: 1998

Sevens: Runners-Up: 1996, 1997

City Cup: Winners: 1920, 1922 Runners-Up 1913, 1959

League Cup: Runners-Up: 1919

State Championship: Runners-Up: 1945

Pre-season Competition: Runners-Up: 1964, 1966, 1977

Midweek Cup [as Amco Cup]: Runners-up: 1976

Channel 10 Challenge Cup: Winners: 1978

Australian internationals[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dillon, Robat (7 May 2009). "Burraston fears full-time Central Coast team". Retrieved 24 May 2009. 
  2. ^ Headon, David (October 1999). "Up From the Ashes: The Phoenix of a Rugby League Literature" (PDF). Football Studies Volume 2, Issue 2. Football Studies Group. Retrieved 7 July 2009. 
  3. ^ "North may pay record bonus". The Sydney Morning Herald. Australia. 8 September 1952. Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  4. ^ AAP (22 April 2010). "Melbourne Storm salary cap quotes". The Roar. Australia: The Roar Sports Opinion. Retrieved 22 April 2010. 
  5. ^ Koslowski, Michael (25 September 1997). "Field of teams". The Sydney Morning Herald. Australia. p. 6. Retrieved 6 February 2011. 
  6. ^ Bears get logo, now for an NRL jersey[dead link] Adrian Proszenko
  7. ^ Proszenko, Adrian (7 February 2010). "Heavy Hitter". The Sydney Morning Herald. Australia. Retrieved 6 February 2010. 
  8. ^ Heighington can bear to wait if Central Coast get up. The Sydney Morning Herald.
  9. ^ Toohey, Barry (21 November 2010), "$10 million on table to get Central Coast Bears over the line". The Sunday Telegraph (Australia)
  10. ^ "Keneally comes bearing gifts in not-so-unfriendly territory". The Sydney Morning Herald. 31 August 2010. 
  11. ^ Sorry, We can't find what you're looking for | Liberal Party of Australia | NSW Division[dead link].
  12. ^ Home. Central Coast Bears (18 February 2013).
  13. ^ norths History |[dead link]
  14. ^ [1][dead link] Archived 13 November 2006 at the Wayback Machine.[dead link]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]