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North Sydney Bears CEO responds to Manly merger proposal

Heart and soul of the North Sydney Bears Greg Florimo has weighed in on the proposal to re-merge Manly and the Bears.

New South Wales Origin coach Brad Fittler has suggested the Sea Eagles and Bears combine with the Central Coast region to form a “behemoth” club stretching north from the CBD all the way to Gosford and beyond.

Bears great-turned-CEO Florimo says another merger could in theory create more rugby league fans and players in the region.

“It’s hard to recruit, it’s hard to retain players, it’s hard to get kids to participate. So do we rationalise and put all our energies into this particular area and make sure we secure this space for the future? That’s probably a great idea and I think that’s what Freddy [Fittler] is trying to do,” Florimo told Macquarie Sports Radio‘s Cam Reddin.

“That would mean, if it is a super club, a behemoth, that may be something that the competition is perhaps heading in the direction of,” Florimo said.

Fittler’s suggestion came after fan support for Manly nose-dived in 2018. Manly’s average home turnout for this season was a measly 8,627, its lowest in 50 years, excluding the Northern Eagles years from 2000-2002.

All three districts combined would take in more than 1.5 million people, which Florimo says would be a “massive” population and land space to be represented by one team.

“There have been plenty of visions for football on the northern peninsula, the Central Coast and the northern suburbs… it’s not a new discussion by any means,” Florimo said.

“Rugby League is an Eastern Seaboard game. As much as we think about expansion, we have also got to consider our grassroots and our homeland,” he said. “Sometimes we look a little bit too far and we forget about what is in front of us”.

On suggestions Perth or Papua New Guinea could house the next NRL expansion club, Florimo warned against prioritising new markets ahead of the game’s heartland.

Click below to hear the interview and listen to the Weekend Warm-Up with Cam Reddin 4.00am-7.00am Saturday and Sunday mornings