The Bears would be perfect for a second Brisbane NRL team.
The Bears would be perfect for a second Brisbane NRL team.

Kent: Unleash the Bears in Brisbane

News sneaks out that the NRL is planning a 17th team, a long overdue expansion, and it leaves nothing else to do but to strike up that grand old cabaret theme, with a brass section: "The Big Black Bears are back on the road again …"

If the song is dated so is the idea; that the NRL should forget any bid process and simply invite North Sydney Bears to become the NRL's 17th franchise when the game expands in 2023.

There are so many positives attached to the Bears returning to the NRL, a foundation club in from the cold, that they should think of nobody else.

It would be a resounding tick for the ARL Commission and League Central, accused long ago of falling out of touch with its fan base.

 

LIVE stream Indigenous All-Stars v Maori Kiwis in the 2020 Harvey Norman NRL All Stars match on KAYO. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >

 

Ben Ikin in action for the Bears. Photo: Gregg Porteous.
Ben Ikin in action for the Bears. Photo: Gregg Porteous.

 

Just to be sure this idea was as sensible as it sounds I called the wise sage Billy Moore, knowing the response would be thought out and considered.

"Putting my red and black hat on …" he began, which is all I needed to hear.

It is easy to dismiss any conversation about a Bears return as misplaced sentiment but, with the NRL getting closer to confirming expansion in 2023, the return of the Bears provides benefits far beyond warming a few red and black hearts.

"You reignite dormant rugby league fans," Moore said, for one.

It would be a comeback story with a Rocky soundtrack.

 

Billy Moore knows what the Bears meant to rugby league.
Billy Moore knows what the Bears meant to rugby league.

 

When the Bears were cut out of the NRL in 2002 thousands of disillusioned fans went with them. Not just North Sydney fans but Balmain and Western Suburbs and Newtown fans, too.

It was symbolic of what the game had become, and they didn't like it.

The ARL Commission met in Perth last week and expansion for 2023, the first season of the new broadcast deal, was discussed.

It's was to understand why. Commissioner Peter V'landys is already on record saying the NRL needs to find a way to add value to the game for the next broadcast deal and a second team in Brisbane, a rugby league city, is the best bet available.

Perth, after the financial failure of last week's Nines, does not seem viable.

Brisbane is the only option, leaving the NRL three options: a new franchise, promoting a Brisbane Rugby League club like Redcliffe, or inviting the Bears to bring their brand to Brisbane.

 

Empty seats at the Nines may have ended Perth’s chances. Photo: James Worsfold/Getty Images
Empty seats at the Nines may have ended Perth’s chances. Photo: James Worsfold/Getty Images

 

A Bears return brings value unimagined in the other options, even beyond a homegrown club like Redcliffe Dolphins.

It has the capacity to soothe so many ills.

The Bears' return creates an immediate feel-good effect. They are old enough to be remembered by older fans and gone long enough to be received as a new club by younger fans.

Most of all, it makes sense financially.

The Bears are already financially sound, which avoids a lot of pressures a start-up NRL franchise would bring. The franchise would be fully privatised.

Plus, with poker machine turnover down this year by close to 10 per cent, a wealth of commercial support around North Sydney is still interested in being involved.

 

 

And, of course, the move to Brisbane would immediately provide, in theory, at least half the Brisbane corporate market to mine.

Financially it makes sense.

The Bears could capitalise on their return by taking two to three games a year to North Sydney, taking pressure off Brisbane and engaging their second market.

Some are concerned that the response in Brisbane will be muted.

"Asking Queenslanders to take on a NSW history would be tough," said Billy Moore, "but putting my red and black on …"

The trick there is for the Bears to make the sell.

 

The red and black would be well suited for a rebirth. Photo: Steve Little.
The red and black would be well suited for a rebirth. Photo: Steve Little.

 

They would have to relocate to Brisbane as a fully-fledged Brisbane club with an unusual back story.

The obvious examples are in the AFL. South Melbourne fully embraced the move to Sydney and the Swans are fully-fledged Sydneysiders now.

The AFL has poured millions into the Gold Coast Suns, a start-up expansion club, for much less success.

The difference is in the sell.

Their rich histories give them a foundation to get through the tough early years and, done right, capitalise on.

The dangers of a brand new franchise in Brisbane is that shiny new toys, with no success, soon become dull. A struggling new team in Brisbane could quickly become a different version of the Titans.

The Bears bring the weight of history. They were everyone's second favourite team, already.


Council throws support behind local jobs

Premium Content Council throws support behind local jobs

THE Western Downs Regional Council is offering a one-stop-shop for employers and...

No new Qld cases as Europe wave soars

Premium Content No new Qld cases as Europe wave soars

Qld records no new COVID cases as Europe’s second wave worsens

Labor accused of giving voters’ private details to unions

Premium Content Labor accused of giving voters’ private details to unions

Personal details of a number of people has allegedly been shared