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NSW Cup 2022 Season Preview | Bears

The NSWRL has cast its eye over the 12 teams who will take part in The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup in 2022, with the opening round to kick off on Saturday 12 March. The state’s premier competition remains a valuable pathway for higher honours with 52 players going on last season to play in the NRL. Today, the North Sydney Bears.

2021

North Sydney Bears finished last season in fourth position in The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup and brought through a competition-high nine NSW Cup graduates into the NRL.

There were plenty of eyes on the Bears at the start of last season with Joseph Suaalii and Sam Walker both getting their first taste of senior football. Despite some mixed performances early in the season, the Bears gained plenty of momentum winning three of their last four games including a 10-point loss to competition heavyweights, Penrith Panthers.

According to coach Jason Taylor, the way they improved as the season went on was what impressed him most.

“We had a couple of really poor performances early on and the boys really learnt from that,” Taylor said.

“As we got to the last few games, we were really starting to hit our straps and feeling really good about the remainder of the season.”

While the Bears had losses to the Panthers, Eels and Magpies, they also had impressive wins over the Raiders, Dragons, Sea Eagles, Rabbitohs, Mounties and the Knights to finish the season with a 7-5 record. The Bears played some exciting footy throughout the year and despite missing a large component of their squad, still had the potential to cause problems for the top three sides later in the year.

This Season

The Roosters were absolutely decimated with injuries in 2021 losing key players such as Luke Keary, Josh Morris, Sam Verrills, Billy Smith and Lindasy Collins, as well as the retirements of captains Boyd Cordner, Jake Friend, and Brett Morris.

As a result, the Bears were missing a key core of their squad and while it impacted their 2021 campaign, it may pay dividends heading into the 2022 season with plenty of young players gaining invaluable NRL and finals experience.

If the Bears and Roosters stay relatively injury free, both sides are well placed to shake up the NSW Cup and NRL respectively.

Players to Watch

With recent NSW Cup graduates such as Walker, Suaalii, Ben Thomas, Ben Marshcke, Tuku Hau Tapuha, Fletcher Baker, Egan Butcher, Nafahu Whyte and Moala Graham-Taufu all making their NRL debuts in 2021, the Bears will be able to run out plenty of talent and experience in 2022.

According to Taylor, it’s two players who haven’t yet cracked the top grade that Bears fans should be keeping an eye on.

“Jerry Key is a guy who’s been around a long time and had a great pre-season,” Taylor said.

“He’s really been training well.”

At 31 years old, Key is a true veteran of the competition and has been in the NSW cup since 2016, playing for the Panthers, Sea Eagles and Western Suburbs Magpies before making his way to the Bears in 2019.

A hard running, edge back-rower, Key has made 28 appearances and scoring four tries for the red and black.

In 2021, Key finished with one try, eight offloads, one linebreak, 26 tackles per game at an efficiency of 95.7% and 106 running metres per game.

The other player that has impressed Taylor over the off-season is five-eighth Jesse Marschke, brother of recent NRL debutant Ben.

At 24 years old, Marshcke has 40 NSW Cup appearances to his name with stints at Newtown Jets and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs before joining the Bears in 2021.

With Walker, Lachlan Lam and Drew Hutchinson all in-and-out of first grade, Marschke played 12 games last year, seven of which he started at five-eighth.

Marschke finished the year with one try, six try assists, six linebreak assists, 11 tackle busts, 25 tackles per game at an efficiency of 90.2% and 57 running metres per game.

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.