Ricky’s View: NRL Expansion Pt 4 – “Central Coast Bears”

Another day, another look at budding NRL expansion bid. This one, perhaps one of the most famous of all, is the Central Coast Bears bid. They have toiled for years, built the right systems and foundations and have been waiting the longest to hear of any news regarding expansion. They have the tools in place but are they the right fit for NRL expansion?

The Bears. An iconic name in Australian rugby league circles and one that has continued to make inroads within the league community as they look to get the approval for expansion. For some years now, the Bears have worked tirelessly to set up the right foundations for growth and development, utilising a variety of different tools, ideas and procedures to help make their dream a reality.

The bid, as the name Central Coast Bears aptly suggests, will be based on the Central Coast. The famous Bears logo is synonymous with the brand and a logo that the bid will keep long-term. With such a rich history and heavy involvement in the foundation of rugby league, it is a logo and a bid that will have the diehard fans chomping at the bit to see them rewarded for their hard work.

The NRL has certainly done their bit to suggest that the Central Coast area is a serious contender for expansion, with numerous NRL games taking place at Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford over the years, as it plays host to many different teams. The fans in the Central Coast area get out in force, proving that regardless of who is playing, they love their rugby league. Fans on the coast have always been passionate about anything to do with league and should their expansion bid be successful, they will attend in the bucketloads, such is their passion for a local team and the game.

The bid itself is not without a flurry of support from high-profile former players and politicians. NRL greats such as Peter Sterling, Andrew Johns and Phil Gould have thrown their support behind a Central Coast team in the NRL. Additionally, Federal member for North Sydney and Federal Treasurer, Joe Hockey, has also chimed in and made his views known regarding a Central Coast team – mainly, that he approves of the idea and wants one in.

All their work to develop and grow rugby league in the region has not been in vain, with numerous platforms thriving and many more to take off and expand further.
Their junior base and catchment area is wide-ranging and with a total of 23 junior nurseries across the entire Central Coast region, the talent pool and depth of players is astounding. A total of 7,000 players play across teh region at varying levels.

Known for their rich breeding ground, the Central Coast area has provided the NRL with many stars, including such names as Matt Orford, Mitchell Pearce, Akuila Uate and Kieran Foran, all of whom played their junior footy in the area. Such names have gone on to showcase their talents to the entire rugby league world and with many more potential talented youngsters coming through the ranks, it is only a matter of time before – at the very least – more Central Coast locals make themselves a household name.

To add to all of that, just this year, the Central Coast Bears will have an opportunity to further expand their growth and development, with news that the Sydney Roosters and Wyong Roos will join forces, with the Roos becoming the Roosters feeder side in the NSW Cup. Keen to establish a presence in the Central Coast region, the partnership will allow all involved to actively improve the quality of the game and to enhance the tremendous foundations that have been laid towards the budding expansion bid.

For the Bears themselves, whilst they are pleased that the Sydney Roosters have aligned themselves with Central Coast based team Wyong, they know that it highlights the immediate need for their own NRL team. Chief Executive Greg Florimo stated as such in an article on June 2, 2014 in the Sydney Morning Herald by Daniel Lane.

“The Roosters have identified there are some quality players based on the central coast and they’re looking to provide them with some support,” said Florimo.

“There’s still a geographical challenge. If you’re a central coast kid and selected to play for the Roosters, it doesn’t really resolve any real pathway problem for the central coast that only a local NRL club would.

“The move does add weight to the argument [for the coast to have an NRL team] and, while the Roosters are entitled to talk to the CRL, hopefully the NRL sees fit to take advantage of the abundance of quality talent on the coast and to provide a legitimate pathway for them.

“All I want to see is kids from this area receive the same opportunity as players from western Sydney or southern Sydney receive to achieve their dreams in the game. At the moment it seems to me like a ‘Clayton’s scenario’ for the league, but certainly a good one for the Roosters.

“By Claytons I mean while the kids on the coast may be in the Roosters’ system, until they have a legitimate home-town team to play for it is a bit like getting a kid from Queensland or the country or Perth or Auckland.”

Florimo’s views add weight to the belief and notion that the Central Coast need their own NRL side and when you read what he says – all of it ringing true – it does make you wonder as to when that will happen and not if.

On a final note, the Bears have the backing and support of many fans across the region and with the formation of their membership structure in 2009 and as of 2011, they had almost 8,000 financial members committed to the brand, the team and their expansion bid.

    Ricky’s View:

Now is the time to be blunt and honest. The Central Coast need a team. Immediately. When expansion rolls around, they should be one of the first teams considered with the view to granting them an NRL licence and getting a team in. Everything falls in their favour more so than other bids. They have a huge catchment area and thus a large junior base and depth to choose from, they have a ready-made stadium that is more than capable of hosting rugby league – as we have seen – and they a vast, passionate supporter base – one that is continually growing – who get out and watch the game of rugby league on a regular basis. Additionally, they have the growing support from passionate members, they have – at this stage – Government members that can assist in long-term longevity and most importantly, they have a rich history associated with the game that even the most ardent rugby league fan can agree, is what the NRL needs more of. Get the Central Coast a team, name it the Bears and give the passionate fans on the Central Coast what they have been craving for and waiting for.

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