How the Sydney Harbour Bridge began the slow death of the mighty Bears

BY CURTIS WOODWARD

@woodward_curtis

There is no doubt almost everybody in rugby league has a soft spot for the North Sydney Bears – a foundation club chewed up and spat out by a game that was meant to love it.

The spirit of the Bears remains as an entity in the lower grades but the National Rugby League lost thousands of fans to purgatory when the Bears were forced to merge with fierce rivals Manly-Warringah. Those that gave the merger a chance went too when the Sea Eagles unceremoniously divorced them to go it alone in 2003.

Old Norths fans will tell you about how the mighty Bears could ‘steal defeat from the jaws of victory’ time and time again.

Younger supporters would remember their renaissance in the 1990’s and a side that featured Greg Florimo, Jason Taylor, David Fairleigh and Matt Seers amongst others.

Who made the cut and who missed out? The81stminute.com’s Curtis Woodward picks every club’s team of the decade

You could argue that Super League and the ill-fated marriage to Manly were the fatal blows.

But their death came much earlier – 80 years to be precise.

‘What the Big Black Bear is he going on about?’ you’re probably wondering.

Let’s get to the point. Who framed Roger Rabbit? Hang on, wrong story.

The question is, what killed the Bears?

You may already know this yarn but the real killer of the North Sydney Bears was in fact… the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Yes that’s right, that big beautiful Coat Hanger that we love so dearly destroyed Norths before the thing had even been built. With the bridge approved for construction, almost a thousand homes were demolished to make way. These were homes of working-class people, Norths fans, forced out of the area to make way for what would become the centrepiece of the harbour.

Norths only two premierships came in 1921 and 1922 respectively.

Work on the bridge began in July of 1923.

They never won another title.

You do the math.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge was a hit Norths never recovered from. Manly’s inclusion in 1947, Super League and the Northern Eagles were simply nails in the coffin.

Norths’ heartland changed forever once the bridge was finished.

Apart from the local community that had been disbanded, more people could now commute into the Sydney CBD for work, altering the working landscape of Northern Sydney forever.

Forget ‘Old Man Yells at Cloud’.

How about ‘Old Bears Fan Yells at Bridge’?

@woodward_curtis

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