North Sydney Bears expansion Dolphins roster Wayne Bennett 18th franchise $15 million funding Mark Geyer NRL expansion bid news

Rugby league legend Mark Geyer believes the North Sydney Bears introduction as the NRL’s 18th franchise hinges on one major factor – the success of the Dolphins.

Tasked with building the Dolphins’ roster ahead of their debut campaign in 2023, Wayne Bennett has struggled to attract marquee players.

While the super coach has signed veteran forward Felise Kaufusi as well as Cowboys flyer Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, the Dolphins missed out on Cameron Munster, Reece Walsh, Kalyn Ponga and Harry Grant.

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The Bears confirmed the club has been promised a $15 million support if they are successful in their bid to become the NRL’s 18th franchise.

However, Geyer believes ARLC powerbrokers will not make any moves until the Dolphins complete a full season.

“There’s a lot of water that has to go under that bridge before that happens, I think at the moment the Bears chairman is saying there’s a lot of corporate support for the Bears,” Geyer said. Triple M.

“It’s fine, I understand that’s because everyone wants to see the Bears, we all grew up with the Bears, I loved playing at Bear Park, it was great.

“But the cold, hard facts are the NRL will be watching the Dolphins with bated breath next season, I dare say if the Dolphins surprise and jump out of the blocks and go a lot better than people think, the 18 franchise be rushed up a bit more.

“If they don’t I think we’ll have to wait three to four years until we see the 18th team and unfortunately for us we’ll see a bye round every week.”

Bears legend Billy Moore has previously revealed the model the club set for the NRL, explaining they are preparing to move anywhere in Australia to secure a return to rugby league’s top flight.

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Geyer, who played for the Western Reds between 1995 and 1997, believes the Bears should base themselves in Western Australia.

“If the Bears are going to do it, they can’t do it alone, they have to go west to the old Western Reds,” Geyer said.

“Obviously I have an interest in this, I played for the Western Reds, I know there was a market then, there’s an even stronger market now.

“I went over there for Origin a couple of years ago and called the game, they love their league, they really do, so if the North Sydney Bears want to jump into bed with the Reds.

“I don’t mind the new franchise being called the Western Bears, that sounds good to me, I think they’d kill it.

“It gives us what we want, the National Rugby League is not national at the moment, we are the east coast league, so make us national, let’s go west honey.”

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