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Don't forget about us - Bears ready to step up if Knights go under By: Adrian Proszenko December 16, 2012

Ready to fill the void ... the Central Coast Bears
CENTRAL COAST BEARS say they'll be ready to fill the breach should the financial crisis engulfing Newcastle force them from the NRL.

The Knights' long-term future is clouded after the Australian Tax Office moved to wind up the Nathan Tinkler-owned Knights and the Newcastle Jets franchises, as well as parent company Hunter Sports Group, over unpaid debts of $2.7 million. Should Tinkler lose control of the Knights, there are fears coach Wayne Bennett would also move on. The Knights and HSG have only recently reached a compromise which allows more time to complete an audit and extend the club's $20 million bank guarantee.

Bears boss Greg Florimo said his prospective franchise would be prepared to fill the void if the NRL revoked Newcastle's licence. ''It would be disrespectful to our members if we didn't explore every opportunity that presents itself,'' Florimo said. ''We've said all along that we're ready to go and we originally prepared ourselves for 2013. That mark's not going to occur but I think there are still some twists and turns in this whole expansion debate to play out. One of those twists may be the viability of some of the current clubs. If an opportunity were to come up then yes, we would pull out all the stops to be ready to jump in.''

The hopes of expansion franchises were dealt a blow during negotiations for the game's television deal, when broadcasters made it clear their appetite for more games wouldn't be matched by a dollar commitment that would make new clubs feasible. The ARLC's strategic plan also put the issue on the backburner.

Advertisement But the Bears are undeterred and are prepared for whatever opportunity presents itself. ''Newcastle and the Central Coast are similar demographics in that they are rugby league heartlands; there is great support for both teams in both areas,'' Florimo said. ''If there were to be a team playing out of Central Coast Stadium, it would be heavily supported, perhaps just as fervently as Newcastle is.

''If this one opportunity presents itself, we owe it to our members and stakeholders to look down that avenue and see if there is a definite opportunity.'' Florimo believes the Bears could assemble a team within 18 months. '' It would depend on who is available,'' he said. ''If you want to be competitive from day one, most of the blue-chip players are signed up until the end of 2014. It wouldn't be ideal, but realistically we could pull something together for 2015.''
With thanks to

16th December 2012

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