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SEASON REVIEW | North Sydney

The North Sydney Bears take on the Newcastle Knights in the opening week of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW Finals Series. Image: Steve Little.
The North Sydney Bears take on the Newcastle Knights in the opening week of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW Finals Series. Image: Steve Little.

The North Sydney Bears had a roller coaster type season in terms of results, with consecutive wins coming in blocks throughout the year before tumbling out in the finals with an understrength starting 17. After two and a half seasons, coach Ben Gardiner has departed the Bears and they are now on the hunt for a new man to take the reins.

Their Highlight Moment
North Sydney had two periods of the year where they seemed unstoppable. They were near perfect to start the year, winning their first four games that came against Wentworthville, Illawarra, Mounties and Newcastle respectively. They were then undefeated from Round 18 to Round 22, however there was a bye and a draw in this period.

Simply Their Best!
Cheyne Whitelaw was the best player for North Sydney in season 2017, which is a great credit to him as he spent a large part of the previous two years on the sideline with various injuries. Whitelaw gets through a mountain of work on a weekly basis, making an average of 37 tackles a game and 101 metres a game. He was rightfully picked for the Intrust Super Premiership NSW Residents side earlier in the year, and for what he adds to the team, an NRL contract does not seem far away for the young powerhouse forward. 

Room For Improvement
While the Bears were a defensively strong outfit, they struggled at times to get points on the board, scoring the second least points out of all 12 teams this season despite finishing in sixth position. In saying that, they were the second best defensive team, but scoring points was their downfall in 2017. It will be interesting to see if the Bears will remain so defensively strong next year with a new coach if they do identify attack as a key area to improve on.

How It Will Be Remembered
As mentioned earlier, the season was a roller coaster year in terms of results, however it will certainly be remembered as the season where North Sydney were eliminated from the finals race with an understrength squad. South Sydney called up Luke Kelly to first grade that week, while Whitelaw was also a late omission from the side. It will also be remembered as Gardiner’s last year; he was the key man in turning the Bears around when he took over.