North Syd­ney Bears

2016 fin­ish: 10th

Rugby League Week - - Nsw Cup -

The coach says: Fin­ish­ing 10th out of 12 screams “flop” but when you take into ac­count Souths’ in­jury toll at NRL level and the Bears’ in­abil­ity to win close games, Ben Gar­diner says it looks worse than it was. “It was one of those frus­trat­ing years. We didn’t want it to be a build­ing year but it ended up be­ing a build­ing year for us. Out of the 13 games we lost, I think eight of those were by four points or less. We didn’t get too many play­ers back from Souths – about two a week – but we were able to build up the ex­pe­ri­ence of the guys that are Norths-ori­en­tated play­ers . . . we prob­a­bly started the year with 15 NSW Cup games of ex­pe­ri­ence and maybe 10 or 12 NRL games but this year we’ll most likely start with about 300 games of NSW Cup ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Player to watch: Wear­ing the No.7 jersey as a 20-year-old rookie in NSW Cup is a daunt­ing prospect but Cess­nock Goan­nas ju­nior Eli Le­v­ido ( right) took it all in his stride. “Eli ended up play­ing 21 of the 22 rounds for us,” Gar­diner says. “He was tar­geted a fair bit but to the kid’s credit he stepped up and showed how tough he is. I thought he car­ried the side a bit at times and set up a lot of tries and a lot of breaks.” KEY GAINS: Luke Kelly, An­thony Cher­ring­ton, Tyrell Fuimaono KEY LOSSES: Paul Carter, Michael Old­field, Jack Siejka, Tom Hughes

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