Rugby League

The bold plan to bring North Sydney Bears back to NRL via Gold Coast Titans

Central Coast Bears CEO Greg Florimo believes the Gold Coast franchise will succeed if the NRL gives the green light to his organisation's bold proposal to partner with the Titans and rebrand the franchise as the Gold Coast Bears.

The NRL is the holder of the Titans' licence but has indicated it has no desire to remain in that position in the long term. Previous league incarnations on the holiday strip - the Chargers, Giants and Seagulls - have all folded as the club struggles to gain a foothold in the competitive Queensland sporting market.

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The Central Coast Bears, controversially pipped for the NRL licence that was handed to the Titans in 2007, are one of the budding franchises should the governing body expand beyond 16 teams. To this point, their proposition has been for admission as a stand-alone team, although their strategy has evolved to include the prospect of a partnership with an existing team.

To that end, the Bears are proposing to head office the prospect of relationship that would result in the Titans wearing the famous red and black colours of North Sydney.

Bears legend: Greg Florimo.
Bears legend: Greg Florimo. Photo: Phil Hearne

"The Bears are keen to work with any future owners of with the NRL's Gold Coast franchise to build a viable and sustainable club with a local and national support base on the Gold Coast," Florimo said. "We believe this is a positive wonderful story for the rugby league community, and most importantly, a proposal that makes sound business sense. While the Bears' focus in recent years has been on winning a licence for the Central Coast Bears we recognise the repeated statements from the NRL that expansion is not on the its agenda in the foreseeable future.

"Accordingly, we have been exploring other avenues for the Bears to re-enter the NRL and have held exploratory talks with a number of organisations, including the Titans. Let me be clear, we are not seeking a takeover of the Gold Coast Titans, nor are we contemplating a sale from the NRL. What we are keen to exploring is a way the Bears can add to the viability of a Gold Coast team by providing the history of a Foundation Club brand; a loyal fan-base in Sydney's north; a growing base of supporters on the Central Coast; Gold Coast infrastructure through the Bear's' 50 per cent ownership of the Tweed Heads Leagues Club.

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"We believe that our involvement would have tangible benefits in terms of television audiences, increased Sydney crowds and a significant larger market for sponsors and merchandise."

The potential return of the Bears, albeit in a different guise, would likely bring back a legion of fans that left the game disenfranchised by their omission from the competition. The development raises the prospect of occasional games being played on the Central Coast or at North Sydney Oval. "We are also highly sensitive to the passion and commitment of the Titans' existing fan base and want to develop ways to work with them to build a club that does their region proud," he said.

Disappointment: Titans players look dejected after conceding a try last season.
Disappointment: Titans players look dejected after conceding a try last season. Photo: Mark Nolan

"But our starting proposition is that a Gold Coast NRL team, called the Bears, wearing red and black and tapped into three passionate communities provides any future owners with the best possible chance of success. We have been developing a plan to support the Gold Coast in this way over the past six months. The NRL's announcement that it will be looking to sell the franchise has prompted us to go public with our offer of support.

"Details of how the Bears could be involved in the franchise will need to be determined over the coming months. Today we say we look forward to working in good faith with anyone who is passionate about the NRL succeeding on the Gold Coast."

An NRL spokesperson stated: "The NRL has had very preliminary talks with several parties which have expressed interest in the Titans but those talks are still in the very early stages. No decision has been made or is currently being considered about the future ownership of the club."

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