The North Sydney Bears made a welcome return to finals football in 2019 although their top-four finish came to no avail with a heart-breaking defeat to the Newtown Jets in Finals Week Two.
It was a disappointing end to otherwise a great season for North Sydney who boasted the second-best defensive record of any side in the competition – much alike their NRL affiliate, Sydney Roosters, who prided a majority of their campaign on defence.
Consistency was key for the Bears throughout their 2019 campaign, recording back-to-back losses just twice throughout the season, although six of their eight defeats came against sides who finished in the top-eight.
Despite bowing out of the finals race with losses in consecutive weeks, the Bears have set themselves up for a stronger 2020 season, boasting young guns such as Egan Butcher and Lachlan Lam, while coach Jason Taylor will remain at the helm of the foundation club for another two years.
Their highlight moment
Round 23 v Penrith Panthers – 42-24
The Bears conceded some heavy defeats throughout the course of the 2019 season but they decided to turn the tables at exactly the right time as they put the Panthers to the sword with a 42-24 victory.
It was a game that wasn’t built on their customary defensive efforts that were evident at different stages throughout the season, but a relentless first-half performance culminated into a timely win against a fellow premiership contender.
Their 30-4 advantage at half-time came off the back of a dynamic team effort with five unanswered tries in the opening stanza.
Max Bailey starred with 192m and 32 tackles in a mammoth 65-minute stint, while Asu Kepaoa continued his strong form with two tries.
While it seemed as though the Bears were peaking perfectly ahead of the finals series, they were unable to repeat their efforts as their season ended just weeks later.
Simply their best
There were plenty of standouts for the North Sydney Bears but Max Bailey proved to be one of their most consistent performers in a season that will have him primed for a massive 2020 campaign.
Bailey was ranked fifth overall for total run metres with 3129 to his name, and worked tirelessly in defence and finished the season with 734 tackles – the seventh most in the competition.
He was rewarded for his incredible form with selection in the 2019 Canterbury Cup NSW Team of the Year, and will take plenty of confidence into next year as he looks for an NRL debut.
Room for improvement
The Bears were the most penalised team in the Canterbury Cup NSW with 200 penalties conceded throughout the regular season.
Although they were able to defence their ill-discipline with some committed goal-line defence for a majority of the year, they were made to rue some poor decisions against fellow premiership contenders.
If they are to limit the amount of easy penalties they conceded when the opposition comes out of their own end, the Bears may prove to be a more formidable defensive outfit in 2020.
Soward’s season grading
I think they were pretty good considering where they finished at eh end of the year although it was disappointing to go out in straight sets.
Once they lost Brock Lamb I didn’t expect them to go on with the job bu they have plenty of talent and Drew Hutchison really stepped up.
They had a good year and can take a lot of confidence into the 2020 season.
This season grading is the opinion of Jamie Soward, based purely on performance factors throughout the 2019 season, and does not nessecarily reflect the views of NSWRL.