As promised, this week footy footy footy spoke (exclusively no less!) to Greg Florimo, former North Sydney star and current CEO of the Central Coast Bears outfit seeking admission into the NRL.
Here’s a transcript of our conversation with Greg. For our summary and analysis of the Bears’ bid itself, click here.
footy footy footy: Greg, you must be pretty happy with the last couple of weeks. You had that big crowd at Gosford for the Manly-Tigers game, some very positive press and a meeting with the NRL last week. What’s your assessment of how things are tracking on the bid?
Greg Florimo: Very positive. That was an indication of a couple of things, that crowd at Bluetongue Stadium: a) that people would get behind a Central Coast team and b) that the Sunday afternoon scheduling is very attractive.
It’s been a good week. Our meeting with David Gallop was just an update on where the bid is at, and its accomplishments to this point. There are still boxes to be ticked between now and when we present our bid formally. He was very encouraged and very supportive of what we’ve done. So yeah, it was a pretty good meeting.
In the past the NRL have been a bit notorious for sending mixed messages on expansion, publically at least. Presumably now, at least behind the scenes, you’re getting the right messages? Certainly David Gallop has been more expansive recently in public in terms of the timeline for getting new teams into the competition.
Yeah, he was been a lot more vocal on expansion recently, which is encouraging for us. Look, there are no certainties in this whole thing, so we have to make sure that we have absolutely every box ticked and that we can show the NRL what they need to see. And that is probably sustainability more than anything. We’ve just got to show ... not just that we’re here for one or two years, its that we’re here for 100 years.
On the nature of the bid itself, its clear that while in effect it’s a clean relocation of the old Bears outfit to Gosford, you’re also putting a lot of emphasis on the North Sydney aspect – in terms of both the emotional connection to the old team and the business plan. That’s obviously a big advantage in many ways, but do you see any negatives in terms of convincing the NRL that another NSW team with strong links to Sydney is the way to go in terms of expansion?
No, I don’t see any negatives. I think the NRL realises it lost a core group of supporters when the North Sydney Bears were excluded from the competition. The AFL specifically had a marketing strategy to recruit disillusioned rugby league fans. So there’s an opportunity there to re-engage those supporters.
Obviously we are a Central Coast team. We’re committed to the Coast. We play all but one of our games on the Coast. But as far as sustainability goes its important that we maintain our links to the North Shore, simply because its economically healthier to do so.
One of the criticisms that gets levelled occasionally at the idea of putting a new team on the Central Coast is that there are lot of existing rugby league fans there who are perhaps catered for with existing teams. Do you get the sense that it’s the kind of area where particularly the younger generation would really get on board with a new team starting at the ground up?
Definitely I do. I think the community is crying out for a rugby league team to follow. Soccer has been successful to a point but it is a rugby league town. If you talk about tribalism, well I think the Central Coast community would get behind a team to the point where they’d fill the stadium every weekend, they’d travel away to support the team, buy merchandise, punt on the team, all those sorts of things.
And if you look at my generation – if you’re not a North Sydney fan, or you weren’t a North Sydney fan, well there’s some element of attraction to the Bears anyway. They might have been your second team, or someone in your family followed the Bears. There are not a lot of people out there that dislike the Bears. That’s probably another string in our bow.
Speaking of your generation, given your proud history at the Bears – the club from which you represented Australia – and your involvement with the bid process for a lot of years now, just how much would it mean to you to see the Bears back running around in the top flight again?
Oh look, it’s important for me, and for my forefathers. I think that there is so much history and tradition that has gone in to the club over the last 102 years that you just can’t turn up your toes and say ‘that’s it, it’s too hard, it’s all over’.
You’ve got to fight for it, and that’s what I’m doing. It’s for all those players and fans and supporters and families that have been touched by the Bears over the last 102 years, and about bringing some happiness back to them.
For the record, a big thanks to Greg for the opportunity to pose a few questions about the bid. As we’ve noted in an article at The Roar today, his willingness to do so speaks volumes about the professionalism of the bid itself. His happiness to do so also qualifies him for our footy footy footy Good Bloke of the Week award – or would, if we had one. We’ll look into it!