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The Best North Sydney Bears players who never played representative football


As for previous articles in this series, I will attempt to put together a quality team for each NRL club made up solely of players since 1980 who never went beyond club level. The criteria for selection is:

– No representing at senior level: internationals, State of Origin, Prime Ministers XIII, City vs. Country or All Stars.
– Current players are excluded.
– Players are only eligible for the club they played the most first-grade games for.
– For players who straddle the 1970s and 1980s, 30 games after 1980 is generally the cut-off to qualify.

This time we move on to the extinct clubs. Firstly Norths, followed by Newtown, then a composite of the Super League casualties.

Norths are an extremely solid side. They had a very good period in the 1990s before being cut and they never got much love in rep sides.

Fullback:

Paul Conlon (98) 1985-1993. 47 wins 47 losses. 18 tries 89 goals 1 FG. 3 finals 1 win.

Paul Conlon played his entire career with the Bears finishing just two games shy of 100 games. He would not have been as effective in today’s game, given his shoulder charge was considered one of the best and once had Wally Lewis carried off as a result.

Conlon was a solid fullback in an improving era for the club and scored a try in their 1991 preliminary final loss to Canberra. He is a life member of the club.

In retirement, Conlon became a district court judge and chairman of the NRL judiciary. He resigned in 2014 in protest over a $50,000 fine handed down to Paul Gallen for some tweets criticising the governing body.

Wings:

Nigel Roy (117) 1995-1999. 63 wins 49 losses. 35 tries. 8 finals 2 wins.

Lismore-born Nigel Roy played a couple of seasons for Illawarra before spending 5 years at Norths and a final year in the doomed Northern Eagles joint venture. Roy was a durable winge,r playing over 20 games each season for the Bears.

Roy played finals with the Bears for four years running, including scoring a try as the club went down in the 1997 preliminary final to eventual premiers Newcastle by just five points.

After over 150 first-grade games, Roy moved to England and played over 100 games for the London Broncos. In retirement, Roy has stayed heavily involved with rugby league, running the game in the Northern Territory for many years before becoming the Illawarra Rugby League’s Operations Manager in 2022.

Andrew Simons (106) 1982-1988. 51 wins 51 losses. 36 tries 2 goals. 2 finals 2 losses.

Local junior Andrew Simons played 7 seasons for Norths in the 1980s appearing in their 1982 finals campaign. He finished off with two seasons at Penrith for a total of 133 first-grade matches and 50 career tries. While at Penrith he played all games in the 1989 season, scored in each of the first six rounds and played finals for the second time.

Simons also wrote two Crowd articles on the Roar in 2012. One of them was called “Dear Ricky: thanks, but should move on”. The more things change …

Centres:

John Adam (156) 1977-1984. 59 wins 94 losses. 44 tries. 2 finals 2 losses.

Centre three-quarter John Adam was a one-club player for the Bears in the 1970s and 1980s. Adam was a solid centre, a leader who captained the club and had a knack for taking intercepts. Adam played in the club’s 1982 finals series and is a life member of the club after also serving on the board and as a selector.

He was also a solid cricketer having captained the NSW Colts. Adam qualified as a solicitor in 1979 and in retirement became the first President of the Players Association. He is the managing partner of Marsdens Law Group

Chris Caruana (108) 1992-1997. 65 wins 36 losses. 38 tries. 8 finals 3 wins.

Chris “Smoke” Caruana was a very good player in an extremely strong North Sydney team in the 1990s, as demonstrated by his win-loss percentage above. In 6 seasons with the Bears, Caruana played in three preliminary finals, but the club never quite reached that elusive grand final. Caruana’s best years were 1996 and 1997 when he scored 23 tries in 47 matches.

After leaving Norths Caruana spent a final three seasons with Souths (both before and after their removal from and readmission to the competition) before retiring with over 150 first-grade games to his name.

Unfortunately in retirement Caruana has fallen on hard times at various stages and has struggled with physical and mental health issues.

Five-eighth:

Mitchell Cox (75) 1982-1985. 36 wins 38 losses. 15 tries 6 FG. 2 finals 2 losses.

Mitchell Cox was rugby royalty when he switched codes to join North Sydney in 1982. His father and brother had both represented the Wallabies and Cox himself played three union tests on the 1981-82 Tour of Great Britain.

In his first year in the new code in 1982, Cox won the Dally M five-eighth of the year as he took Norths to the finals for the first time since 1965. He had another solid season in 1983 as the club just missed the finals, but struggled in the next two seasons following a bout of hepatitis and the emergence of a young Cliff Lyons (was he ever young?) and left for Manly in 1986.

Cox had a good first season with the Sea Eagles as they played finals in 1986, but struggled in 1987 when replaced again by Cliff Lyons, who had followed him to the club) and retired.

Cox also kicked the only 3-point drop goal in the history of rugby league, in a match against Newtown in 1982. In the act of kicking the field goal, Cox was fouled by opposing number Ken Wilson. The field goal was successful plus the ref awarded the Bears a penalty right in front, which was put over by John Gray.

Don McKinnon on Cox: “Funniest bloke I’ve ever met. Completely irresponsible. Always played great footy. Quick. Great defender.”

Half:

Mark Soden (170) 1989-1999. 100 wins 66 losses. 28 tries 1 goal 1 FG. 11 finals 3 wins.

Next up we have a beauty: Mark Soden. He is the only player in this team to have registered 100 wins for the club, the next best being only 65. Soden played 11 seasons for the Bears, participating in five finals series in the 1990’s without ever making a grand final. He retired after Norths’ last ever NRL match after not being picked up by the Northern Eagles merged club and played and coached park footy on the Northern Beaches.

Soden played half for the club in the early 1990s before switching to hooker in 1994. I have a gun hooker in this side and not a lot of halves, so Soden goes back to his half days here.

Soden on the demise of North Sydney as a top-level club: “I have four boys and they can never go watch an NRL game and say ‘my Dad was a part of this club’, that’s what makes me sour”. He is a life member of the club.

Mark Soden (Photo by Getty Images)

Lock:

Alan ‘Frank’ Burns (95) 1981-1985. 42 wins 49 losses. 24 tries. 2 finals 2 losses.

Local junior Alan Burns played 5 seasons for North Sydney in the early 1980s, including during their 1982 finals appearances. He also played an off-season for Wakefield in 1983-84 and finished his career with a season at Wests in 1986 to get him to 100 career first-grade games.

From Don McKinnon (todaystale.com): “Nerdiest footballer I’ve ever met in my life. He was intelligent – which didn’t go down well with a lot of us! Blistering speed, great on his feet… Great anticipation. In the ‘82 side that made the semis and one of our best players then and in ‘83”.

England legend James Graham chats to Mike Meehall Wood for our new Rugby League World Cup podcast, running through the host’s chances of lifting the trophy

Second Row:

Craig Wilson (106) 1991-1996. 64 wins 34 losses. 13 tries 3 FG. 6 finals 2 wins.

Craig Wilson played 150 first-grade games, mainly for Norths, in the 1990s. He played in three straight finals series between 1994 and 1996. He played mostly off the bench as an impact forward.

After leaving the Bears Wilson played a season each with The South Queensland Crushers and with Illawarra. He then finished in England with Gateshead and Hull FC.

Oddly for a forward Wilson was a bit of a field goal specialist, potting 9 during his career, despite never kicking a goal.

Fred Teasdell (112) 1983-1988. 50 wins 60 losses. 14 tries.

Fred “Mercury” Teadell’s father Bill played for the Bears in the 1960s, but Fred spent his first three seasons with local rivals Manly. After moving to Norths in 1983 Teasdell cemented a first-grade position and played six seasons with the Bears, captaining the club at various stages.

After leaving North Sydney, Teasdell moved around a bit. In 1988 he spent a season in France with Villa France de Rouergue. “Since I’ve been here I’ve been kicked, gouged, head-butted, grabbed in the Christmas hold and spat at…I’ve never seen anything like the last four weeks, I’ve just felt like getting away…It’s a lovely place and the people are great but I have to worry too much about survival”.

On returning to Australia, Teasdell continued to play in the lower tiers and captained the Newtown Jets from 1991 leading them to a Metropolitan Cup premiership in 1992. After that, he moved to the Gold Coast and coached the Bilambil Jets to back-to-back A Grade Premierships.

Teasdell retired to the Gold Coast and like a true Norther Beaches boy, was part of a surfboard club at Rainbow Bay while selling poker machines for a living.

Props:

Steve Trindall (94) 1996-1999. 53 wins 38 losses. 3 tries. 7 finals 2 wins.

Wee Wah born Steve Trindall play 11 years and 172 matches of first grade from his debut for Canberra in 1993. Four of those seasons were spent with North Sydney as well as another two in the ill-fated Northern Eagles joint venture. These six years were Trindall’s most productive, playing over 20 games each season, scoring all of his career 6 tries and appearing in three finals series including two preliminary finals with the Bears.

After the Northern Eagles fell apart, Trindall joined another joint venture, the Wests Tigers, where he played for two largely unremarkable seasons before heading off to England. There he played for three seasons with the London Broncos under former teammate Tony Rea, before spending a further two years in their second division with the Whitehaven Warriors.

Adrian Toole (131) 1985-1995. 56 wins 67 losses. 8 tries. 5 finals 2 wins.

One-club player Adrian Toole played 11 seasons for the Bears from 1985. Toole played in the club’s 1991 preliminary final loss to Canberra and also appeared in their finals series in 1994 and 1995 (his last game for the club). He also won a reserve grade grand final in 1993. He is a life member of the club.

Toole was a soccer player in his hometown of Forbes before becoming a prop in the NRL. He was also the subject of the mighty “Toooooole” call resounding around North Sydney Oval.

Hooker:

Tony Rea (120) 1988-1994. 59 wins 55 losses. 14 tries 14 goals 1 FG. 3 finals 1 win.

Tony Rea was one of the smarter players running around. After playing in Brisbane for Brothers from 1984 and winning a premiership in 1987 he joined the exodus of Brisbane players in 1998, landing at Norths. By 1989 he was captaining the club culminating in leading them to a preliminary final in 1991.

Rea left Norths in 1995 after well over 100 games with the club. He then built a long-term career in England with the London Broncos as a player, CEO head coach and Director. He also worked as a commentator in England.

In 2011-2012 Rea also coached the ACT Brumbies in Super Rugby. They did not do well and Rea was not impressed, in 2011 giving one of the all-time sprays to his own team and club “We are just a mob without any fight in us when it gets tough, even if we win… We have just too many people and an organisation that makes too many soft decisions … it’s in the wood now.” Asked if the side could lift for their last five matches of the Super season, Rea replied: “No, no chance. These blokes are not going to find something that is not there.”

He now runs a venture capital firm out of London.

Bench:

John McArthur (133) 1986-1995. 65 wins 62 losses. 28 tries 25 goals 2 FG. 4 finals 1 win.

John McArthur played 12 seasons in the NRL, his last 10 with the Bears. While at Wests he had the distinction of scoring the last ever try at Pratten Park, in 1985. McArthur could play anywhere in the backline and featured in two finals series for the Bears from the bench. This included scoring a try in their 1991 preliminary final loss to Canberra. McArthur also topped the tryscoring for the club in 1993.

Peter Cross (94) 1979-1986. 41 wins 50 losses. 4 tries. 2 finals 2 losses.

Peter Cross was a one-club player for the Bears in the 1980s. He earned a permanent first-grade position in 1982 as the Bears made their first finals series since the mid-1960s. His brother Greg played a few games for Manly and his father, the late Barry Cross was a highly respected referee who acted as a touch judge up to international level. He was a brave ref, sending off England and Cronulla half Tommy Bishop at Endeavour Field in 1973.

Courtesy of Todaystale.com, here are some comments from Norths stalwart Don McKinnon on Cross: “Would walk around with a vacant grin on his face. He came to training once with his hand bandaged. We said, ‘What’d you do?’ He said ‘I got electrocuted today at work’.  I asked ‘You got an electric shock?’ He said, ‘No I got electrocuted and they had to resuscitate me and bring me back to life’. He was dead on the ground. He worked for Sydney Council in the wires. He clutched one of them, fell down and died. But they brought him back. That night he came to training. People might ask, Is he really dumb or really tough? I’d like to say he was a combination of both.”

Steve Mayoh (93) 1979-1985. 41 wins 48 losses. 9 tries 4 goals. 2 finals 2 losses

Big Steve Mayoh played in the front row for the Bears from the late 1970s. His best year was in 1982 when he played 27 matches as the Bears reached the finals. He also kicked four goals that year.

In 1981 Mayoh’s Scanlens footy card displayed a photo of teammate centre Simon Brockwell instead of his own.

In retirement, Mayoh played country football in Cowra.

Jason Martin (66) 1989-1992. 33 wins 31 losses. 2 tries 1 FG. 3 finals 1 win

In 1990 heartthrob halfback Jason Martin burst onto the scene winning the Dally M Rookie of the Year and finishing only 1 point away from winning the Dally M Medal behind Cliff Lyons.

Forming a quality combination with Mark Soden, Martin continued to excel in 1991 as the Bears made it all the way to the preliminary final and he finished third for the Rothmans Medal. Unusually for a halfback, Martin had to do the nudie run that year, scoring exactly zero points from 22 games.

By the end of 1992, Martin had been shunted to lock and hooker as a young Greg Florimo came through and he left for Newcastle and then North Queensland, where he captained the club during an injury-ravaged 1995. He spent a final season in France with Paris St Germain in 1997.

In 1991 Martin released a single “Take Us to the Top” reaching the heady heights of 145 on the charts. It is reportedly not good. After retiring, in his own words Martin “surfed, played the guitar in pubs and enjoyed life for a while.”





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