The North Sydney Bears haven’t competed in the NRL since 1999, however if a few results had just gone a little differently earlier in the decade, then this may have never been the case.
Throughout the 1990’s the Bears were one of the best teams in the game. They made the finals on six occasions, yet we’re never quite able to make the Grand Final but did come close.
In 1991 they finished third on the ladder and had to beat Penrith in the semi final to make the Grand Final but would lose 16-14. Legendary goal kicker Darryl Halligan uncharacteristically missed four kicks at goal throughout the game. If just two of them had landed, the Bears would’ve been through to their first Grand Final since 1943.
The following week they got a second crack tho, this time against Canberra in the preliminary final, however the Raiders won quite comfortably 30-14.
After a poor 1992 and just missing the 1993 finals after finishing in sixth position, the Bears would finish second in 1994. They lost the qualifying final to Canberra 26-12 and met Brisbane the next week in the semi-final where they would win 15-14. North Sydney would then come up against the Green Machine once more with the winner through to the grand final. They lost the game 22-9 and the Raiders went on the win the premiership.
In 1995 they made the finals again but were eliminated in the first week after losing to Newcastle 20-10.
Then came along 1996 where they finished third with halfback Jason Taylor winning the Rothmans Medal and the Bears fans started to believe it was their year. They met Brisbane in the their opening finals match winning 21-16 giving them another shot at making it to the grand final. It wasn’t to be tho after going down to to St George 29-12 in the preliminary final.
In 1997 not even a divided competition helped the Bears chances as after winning their major qualifying final against Parramatta 24-14, they lost their forth preliminary final in seven years against the eventual premiers Newcastle 17-12.
North Sydney made the finals once more in 1998, however lost their qualifying and quarter finals against Parramatta and Canterbury respectively.
During the Bears final year playing as a stand alone club in the re-branded NRL, they missed the finals. After the 1999 season they then merged with Manly creating the ill-fated Northern Eagles who folded at the end of 2002.
You can’t help but think that if a few results went the other way and the Bears made those grand finals and possibly even won a couple, we may still be watching them play at the top level today. The North Sydney Bears were there from the start, a foundation club formed in 1908 and it’s sad that we can’t.