Bears confirm bid to become NRL's next franchise

1 month ago 17
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The Bears have gone public with their bid to become the NRL's 18th franchise, revealing a new shortened name that ditches their North Sydney branding 22 years after they were forced out of the competition.

After the NRL earlier this month confirmed the Dolphins, who beat out Queensland rivals the Firehawks and Jets to join the competition in 2023, the Bears announced they want to be the next team to enter the competition.

An 18th franchise will be on the NRL's radar going forward, and it's certainly no secret after CEO Andrew Abdo confirmed it would make sense to expand the competition's weekly fixtures.

"Seventeen is a natural stepping stone to 18," Abdo said earlier this month. "At 18 we have another fixture, that provides a whole other opportunity for our fans."

A report by The Sydney Morning claims the Bears outlined their plan to the NRL five months ago but chose to keep it a secret during the league's quest for a new Queensland franchise.

The new logo of the Bears (Sydney Morning Herald)

Part of the bid will see the club known just as the "Bears" after a new logo a released ditched the iconic North Sydney branding.

It's understood the club will still be based out of North Sydney, but part of the bid will see the team venture out to regional NSW areas such as Dubbo, Coffs Harbour, Wagga Wagga, the Central Coast and Tamworth.

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Bears chairman Daniel Dickson spoke of his excitement surrounding the bid.

"We want to be reintroduced as the 18th team, as a team of the people," Dickson told The Sydney Morning Herald.

"We think it's the best rugby league story in 20 years.

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"This is de-risking the growth of the game by re-engaging with 220,000 fans. If you start a new franchise, you have years of growing your fan base.

"This is an existing, 113-year national brand of heritage, heart and history. All we need to do is give it a platform."

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The Bears last played in the NRL in 1999 after they were forced out and have since been the feeder club to the Sydney Roosters.

The club in 2000 merged with the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles to form the Northern Eagles, but that only lasted until 2002.

Part of the Dolphins' bid to become the NRL's 17th franchise was they needed to stump up a $50 million bank guarantee for the first five years.

Sean Hoppe and Mario Fenech of the North Sydney Bears celebrates after a NSWRL finals match at the Sydney Football Stadium 1993 (Getty)

To prove they can be financially stable, the Bears have been backed in by The North Sydney Leagues Club as a long-term sponsor.

It's understood several are also open to a private ownership model.

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