NRL 2024: North Sydney Bears, 18th franchise, Peter V’landys, news, highlights, Papua New Guinea, expansion bid, interview, videos, North Sydney Oval

ARLC chairman Peter V’landys has revealed the North Sydney Bears could return to the NRL as the race to become rugby league’s 18th franchise ramps up.

The NRL’s current broadcast deal runs until the end of 2027 and it’s unlikely a new team will enter the competition before then.

However, speaking to The Daily Telegraph, V’landys revealed fans of the historic club have been continually when the Bears will return to the NRL.

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North Sydney were one of NSWRL’s founding members but left the NRL following the 1999 season, breaking the hearts of Bears’ faithful.

A Papua New Guinea-based team is leading the race to become the NRL’s 18th franchise, but V’landys explained North Sydney could be involved in some capacity.

“Everywhere I go, that always the question … when are you bringing back the Bears? I didn’t realise they had so many old fans,” V’landys said.

“They’ve got to be in the equation. They can’t be stand-alone in Sydney because there’s too many already.

“However, they can certainly be part of a new team, whether it be in Perth, the Pacific, wherever. They’re so passionate and you want that.”

Veteran rugby league reporter Phil Rothfield pressed the powerful administrator and asked point blank is the Bears will return to the NRL.

“It makes sense that we bring them back in some capacity, because they’ve got 200,000 members. That’s important,” V’landys said.

“We brought the Dolphins in as 17th team because they were bringing new fans into the game, not people following the Broncos.

“They did a study and showed they’d bring all these new people to rugby league. That’s vital. You want to bring the casual viewer in to become an engaged fan. The Bears have got that.”

The Bears were dealt a hammer blow in their bid for an NRL return last year when NSW Premier Chris Minns withdrew $11 million in funding.

The funds were promised by the former Perrottet government but were used elsewhere following the election of Minns as the state’s new leader.

Meanwhile, Bears powerbrokers have reportedly put forward a bid to the NRL that will involve all of the Pacific’s rugby league playing nations.

They also want to offer pathways for players in the Pacific and want to play a handful of games at the famous North Sydney Oval.

Originally published as ‘In the equation’: Huge Bears boost as V’landys reveals iconic franchise’s expansion credentials

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