I always knew that Gould was a smart man. Phil Gould | December 7, 2008 The North Sydney Bears want back in. Why not? In fact, could someone please explain to me why they were allowed to fold in the first place? I'll get over this one day, I suppose. Maybe. The new world order deemed years ago it was in the best interests of rugby league to get rid of South Sydney, the Gold Coast and the Bears. My God, there was a time they were also happy to see the mighty Manly Sea Eagles wither away without trying to save them. Look at them all now. Where would our game be without these brands? I'll throw other sacrifices like Adelaide and Perth into the mix here as well, who, despite their infancy at the time of the game's restructuring after the Super League debacle, were also victims of this most destructive period in our game's history. I'll come back to the theme of a truly national competition in a moment. The North Sydney Bears story is indeed a sad one and it has been (conveniently for some) swept into the background over the years; for far too long, in fact. Despite their relative anonymity these days, a loyal band of North Sydney greats have managed to keep the colours flying in second-tier competitions. So, too, the mighty Newtown Jets, who never ever say die. Now the Bears see an opportunity to resurrect their club into the big time and the NRL should be doing everything in its power to make this a reality. For those of you just joining the program, the North Sydney Bears went broke years ago courtesy of an ill-fated campaign to survive at all costs during the Super League war. At the time, an unsustainable wage structure was hurting all in the game. Clubs were also being threatened with expulsion if they could not satisfy certain criteria which were formulated specifically to reduce the number of teams to a more pay-TV friendly cost structure in the late 1990s. The Bears bit the bullet and decided to move their operation to the Central Coast. Weather and finance conspired against them and they went broke before they could realise their dream. They must shake their heads at the thought that within a short period of their painful demise, other clubs were back playing in the NRL with less than secure financial models and at venues well short of the criteria set down in the initial evaluations. They were then forced into an unhappy marriage with the Manly club, which also had the backside out of its trousers. The Northern Eagles captured nobody's imagination and bumbled along the inevitable path to failure. Out of the wreck, a number of passionate and well-heeled football lovers saved the Sea Eagles and were rewarded for their efforts with a stunning premiership victory this year. The Bears, though, dropped out of the NRL and into virtual oblivion. Since that time, the loss of the Bears has slowly eaten away at the rugby league supporter base in the North Sydney strip like a cancer. When you talk to junior league administrators, school principals and parents, you get a feel for just how damaging their omission has been for league in the area. Many junior clubs folded. Others changed their allegiance to rugby union or football. Schools no longer offer rugby league as a sporting option. It truly is tragic and like a sick grandparent in the back bedroom, no one likes to talk about it. Maybe this one-time stronghold of rugby league can never be fully revived. However, there is surely plenty of upside in bringing the Grizzly Bears back to the magnificent venue at Gosford and further developing the game and its supporter base between the crucial areas from Manly to Newcastle. Why stop there? Long-term plans should already be in place for another team playing out of a burgeoning area between Newcastle and the Gold Coast. We should also be looking at another club between Brisbane and Townsville, so rugby league ties up the whole eastern seaboard. From this position of strength, we can make the rest of the country our aim. The likes of Adelaide and Perth can succeed in time off the back of this eastern dominance. It might take 20 years but what a legacy an aggressive and forward-thinking administration could leave for the future of the game if it just comes out of its cocoon and spreads it wings. Surely we are looking at these options? Expansion is a must. At least give us the luxury of a dream to say it's possible. Two teams in Brisbane and another in New Zealand, please. South Pacific Cups and tournaments involving Islander and Indigenous entities are all great development strategies for our game both domestically and internationally. Even the pride of our game in this neck of the woods, State of Origin football, needs to be modernised. Queensland and NSW need and would welcome other competition. What a product this could be. You want ways to raise revenue? When the State of Origin concept was first introduced to our rugby league calendar, the incidence of players from Polynesian and Islander heritage was minimal in our local competitions. The registration rates in junior football of kids from these backgrounds have now reached staggering proportions and our game needs to capitalise on this potential bonanza for our code. There is more opportunity in our NRL competition for kids to pursue a rewarding career in professional rugby league than football or rugby could ever hope to offer in this part of the world. That's not to say rugby and football can't make big inroads if the NRL sits on its hands and does nothing proactive about its future. It's easy to bemoan the economic climate and call for a tightening of the belts. However, this pain won't last forever. The NRL should be positioning itself to take full advantage of the next wave of good times by investing research dollars into new locations and competitions. Let me tell you, years ago the Manly club was no better off than the North Sydney Bears are right now. It takes money, know-how and passion. But anything is possible.