SEASON REVIEW | North Sydney Bears

The North Sydney Bears were another side who enjoyed a rather successful 2017 season when they reached the first week of the Finals, but their 2018 season will be one to forget for the foundation club. 

They recorded just seven wins to finish second-last on the competition ladder, but despite their misfortunes 2019 holds plenty of promise for the Bears after they were named as the feeder club for the Sydney Roosters for the next five years.

They started the year with three consecutive losses against the Warriors, Panthers and Dragons but quickly found a purple patch of form with three wins and a draw in their following five fixtures.

But their biggest downfall came halfway through the year when the struggled to build consistency with five losses between Rounds 10 and 16.

Arguably their two best performances were against the Newtown Jets (2018 Grand Finalists), playing out two enthralling draws in each leg of the Frank Hyde Shield, but they also took enormous confidence from their 34-6 win over the Mounties late in the season.

Their finals fate came down to the very last round with a win and other results determining whether they would finish the season in the top eight, but a 12-all draw against the Workers wasn't enough to gift them a finals berth.

The Key Number

193.

For a team that enjoyed limited success throughout the 2018 season they sure made a habit of maintaining their discipline with just 193 errors across their 24 games – the least of any side in the competition.

It speaks volumes of the work Shane Millard and the coaching staff implemented into a rather youthful Bears side, particularly with a fresh halves pairing of Connor Tracey and Dean Hawkins who played well beyond their years at crucial stages of the season.

The future is bright for young halfback Dean Hawkins.
The future is bright for young halfback Dean Hawkins. ©NRLPhotos

The Rising Star

In a disappointing year for the Bears, one positive they can take out of the year is the emergence of Tracey and Hawkins, with both proving influential in each of their seven victories. While Hawkins starred at halfback countless times throughout the season, we can't go past the 2018 Five-Eighth of the Year in Tracey.

It was not only an award for his consistency but also a recognition of his perseverance after enduring three injury-affected seasons which saw him have three knee reconstructions.

He recorded 12 tries, 12 try-assists, and 11 line-breaks in 2018, which was the most of any player in the side in each respective category.

Room For Improvement

For a team that did so well with the ball-in-hand and had the lowest errors of any side in the competition, their biggest downfall was not being able to take advantage of their chances when it mattered.

Forwards such as Dean Britt and Rhys Kennedy did well to earn valuable field position through the middle-third with their outside backs looking threatening out-wide, but they couldn't capitalise against some of the stronger outfits in the competition that could have ultimately gifted them a finals berth.

Seven of their losses were by a margin of eight or less, however, can take confidence in four of their victories were against sides who played in the finals – beating Wyong Roos twice, and the Western Suburbs Magpies and Mounties once.

Nonetheless, next season looks promising as they boast an abundance of youth and attacking flair and will no doubt flourish under the new Sydney Roosters system.

How it will be remembered

Sometimes it can be hard to find positives after finishing second-last on the competition ladder but hopes will still be high for the Bears with plenty to look forward to in 2019. 

It will be remembered as a season where they didn't reach their maximum potential but the experience for some of the younger players in the squad will prove invaluable.

The change from the Rabbitohs to the Roosters leaves a few question marks surrounding their playing roster but the core group of players who starred in 2019 will remain as they key to their success in the short-term future.