As the Intrust Super Premiership continues to go from strength to strength, it keeps a firm grasp on its proud history – one which will open a new chapter on Saturday afternoon.
The Western Suburbs Magpies’ emphatic return to the NSWRL’s top competition makes it the third foundation club competing at that level – and, including the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Sydney Roosters’ NRL outfits, there are now five of the original eight franchises left competing in elite competitions. The addition of the Magpies reopens new rivalries that date back to 1908, with the first of these to be displayed in the Round 6 meeting.
While the Magpies and Bears’ rivalry might not be as renowned as some others that have endured 110 years – the pair never met in a NSWRL grand final – it is perhaps the most even battle in Rugby League history. After 186 first grade matches between the two clubs, the record is balanced at exactly 89 wins each and eight draws. It’s a history which is unlikely to ever be changed at the top level, but it sets up an interesting clash in the Intrust Super Premiership.
And so came the introduction of a special trophy for the occasion, to be adorned by a Rugby League record-breaker who spent time at both clubs. The Jason Taylor Cup will be awarded to the aggregate winner of both the Bears’ and Magpies’ clashes this season, with the trophy’s namesake happy to be involved.
“It’s a great honour,” Taylor tells NSWRL.com.au. “I was feeling like I wasn’t worthy of having that when I spoke to (Bears General Manager) Greg Florimo about it a few months ago, but he said they were all keen for me to lend my name to it.
“I feel very happy to support it and it should be a good game.”
Match: Bears v Magpies
Round 6 -
Venue: North Sydney Oval
Taylor, who played his first four seasons at Western Suburbs before heading to North Sydney for the next six, will be one of several Bears legends in attendance at North Sydney Oval. The Bears’ Old Boys’ Day will feature past North Sydney greats at the first home game of the season – and Taylor believes the club does a good job of embracing its history.
“I think it’s a really important thing, so it’ll be great to see some of the old players there at the game and great to catch up with them,” Taylor adds. “For it to be two clubs that I’ve played for, it adds a bit of extra nostalgia there.
“I have really clear memories of the games that I played against the Magpies when I was with the Bears – and even the games that I played with the Magpies before I went to the Bears. Going back to Campbelltown once I’d moved across to the Bears was a big thing, and obviously I got targeted pretty well by the Magpies players.
“I look back on it with absolutely great memories. There was a couple of really tight games that we had and I’ll always remember them.”
Taylor, currently an assistant coach at the Roosters, keeps a particularly keen eye on feeder club the Wyong Roos – but knows that the Bears will need significant improvement if they’re to overcome the table-topping Magpies. The clubs will go head to head from 1pm AEST, with the game to be broadcast live on Channel 9 and 9Now in NSW.