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.
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. 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.〔
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. 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. 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.
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