Out of hibernation, Bears launch golden bid for Central Coast inclusion Brad Walter | December 5, 2008 North Sydney Bears have launched a new campaign to rejoin the NRL as a Central Coast side and yesterday stepped up their campaign for inclusion in the 2011 premiership when chief executive Greg Florimo met Gold Coast Titans boss Michael Searle. Florimo and the chairman of the recently formed Central Coast Bears bid committee, Perry Lopez, flew to the Gold Coast for an all-day discussion with Searle about how the Titans had succeeded in gaining entry to the NRL for the 2007 season. Florimo said they now planned to have a meeting with NRL chief executive David Gallop before the end of the year. "We're serious about this," Florimo said. "We've been nine years in the reserve grade competition and we've managed to keep the club alive so we're fine with that but we've obviously always had the thought that we would get back into the NRL one day. We've got a bid committee together that is still in formation at the moment but one of the key elements, we think, in putting together a comprehensive bid is to find out exactly what the Titans did right and try to emulate that." While the bid is being driven by Norths, Florimo said the NRL's proposed 17th team would belong to the Central Coast. The Bears were in the process of moving to Gosford in 1999 but went broke waiting for the new $30 million stadium to be completed and were forced into an ill-fated Northern Eagles joint venture with bitter rivals Manly. Florimo said fans would not accept a cash-strapped Sydney club relocating to the Central Coast to ensure its survival but support for the Bears was well established after more than a decade of involvement in the area. "To have a club come up here on the bones of their arse and as a reaction to some poor business dealings is not going to be accepted by the people of the Central Coast," he said. "For this to be successful it needs to be defined as a Central Coast team. "We think there's enough money on the Central Coast to sustain a team as long as everyone gets behind it. When the Gold Coast got in, there was no invitation for applications, they just got a groundswell of community support behind them and forced the issue. We're taking a similar tack, and hopefully the NRL will see the value of it." The Central Coast Bears, with the financial backing of multi-millionaire businessman John Singleton, were one of three consortiums seeking for entry in 2004 but after the NRL deferred a decision, the Bears and the Wellington Orcas withdrew their bids. The Titans were given the green light the following year to enter the 2007 premiership after securing government funding for Skilled Park. The Bears do not have such a hurdle to overcome after being behind the construction of Central Coast Stadium before they were forced out of the NRL at the end of the 1999 season. Florimo said the addition of new teams before the expiry of the current television contract in 2012 would give the NRL greater bargaining power to negotiate an increased deal. "We just see a bit of an opportunity at the moment considering the NRL broadcasting rights are up for renewal in the next few years, and we figure that it would be great to have a truly national game and as many potential pay-TV customers as possible so, with that in mind, we figured we would have another shot," he said. Aside from Searle, the Bears have received support from South Sydney chief executive Shane Richardson and St George Illawarra coach Wayne Bennett, who said the demise of Norths was a disappointing outcome of the Super League war. "But I was pleased to see recently they want to put the Bears back in Gosford as the Central Coast Bears. I think that'd be a great concept, and I hope they can pull it off one day," Bennett told The Illawarra Mercury. Richardson, who negotiated a deal two years ago for Norths to be the Rabbitohs' feeder team, said: "They've been hanging in there and have never given up hope of getting back in to the NRL so it would be good to see them succeed."