Remembering the Defunct Clubs of Rugby League

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With reports that the North Sydney Bears believe that they could be back in the NRL by 2024, the Rugby League world is in a frenzy of off-season nostalgia.

Obviously, this led to a discussion of the likes of the ill-fated Western Reds, South Queensland Crushers, Adelaide Rams and a number of teams that once hit the footy field and TV screens before disappearing into the night!

The Ladbrokes Blog pays tribue to the clubs that have left top-grade League over the years.

Western Reds (1995 – 1997)

Rugby League’s full time foray into the west was eventful to say the least with the Reds winning their debut game over St George at the WACA in 1995.

Two-time Dally M winner Mick Potter was one of a handful of notable signings as he came out of a brief retirement to give it one more go.

Having aligned with the Super League, they were one of the three teams dropped after 1997 when the game once again re-unified.

Gold Coast Chargers (1988 – 1998)

A club that averaged a new name every two and a half seasons during their decade in the spotlight, the Chargers began life as the Gold Coast-Tweed Giants in 1988.

Admitted in the same year as the Broncos and Knights, the Giants had to play over the NSW border in Tweed Heads due to a clause in the Broncos licence that prevented multiple teams in South East Queensland.

1990 saw the club rebranded as the Gold Coast Seagulls and even featured Wally Lewis in his final professional season in 1991.

For a brief period at the end of the 1995 season, the club was rebranded as the Gold Coast Gladiators, however they never played a game under that banner with the ARL taking over the club before the next season began.

Their final iteration was as the Gold Coast Chargers, playing out of Carrara Stadium with a new strip of jade, black, purple and gold.

They sided with the ARL in the split season of 1997 and made it into the NRL however were disbanded in December of 1998.

Adelaide Rams (1997 – 1998)

Captained by the inimitable Kerrod Walters for their two years of existance, the Rams were rugby league’s attempt to gain some traction in the AFL and Cricket loving city of Adelaide.

Formed to participate in News Ltd’s Super League competition, the Rams made their debut in 1997 when the competition launched.

They survived the chop when the competitions merged in 1998 but were controversially cut before the 1999 season kicked off when the Dragons merged with Illawarra to maintain an even number of teams in the competition.

Hunter Mariners (1997 – 1997)

Another Super League creation, the Mariners played just one season as local competition for the Knights, who would go on to win the ARL Premiership that year.

All seven of the Mariners wins that season came at their home base of Topper Stadium with just two losses.

Away from home was a different story for them as they struggled and lost all nine fixtures on the road, consigning them to sixth place in the ten-team competition.

Prior to 1998, it was deemed that the Newcastle area would not be big enough for two sides and after a merger with the Gold Coast side fell through, they were excluded from the new league.

North Sydney Bears (1908 – 1999)

With all due respect to the other teams on this list, this might be the most painful inclusion.

Formed in 1908, the Bears were a fixture of the NSWRL and planned to ensure their survival by moving to the Central Coast.

With too much debt accrued, the Bears were forced into a merger with the Manly Sea Eagles however that was short lived as the joint club collapsed in 2002.

The Bears are not going away quietly however as they continue to seek re-admission into the NRL as a new entity, including an attempt to buy the Gold Coast Titans at the end of last year and reports of another plan for a comeback.

Northern Eagles (2000 – 2002)

Speaking of that joint club, it was around for all of three seasons as the side split its time between Brookvale Oval and Gosford.

Just after fans had become used to calling them the Northern Eagles, the merger collapsed and the licence reverted back to Manly leaving the North Sydney team out in the cold.

While other mergers have worked quite well due to the NRL condensing its number of teams, this is one that can not go in that category but recent developments have the Bears confident of a return in 2024 under a proposed two-tiered NRL competition.

South Queensland Crushers (1995 – 1997)

The South Queensland Crushers played their games at Lang Park, recruited plenty of well-known players but were still never fully adopted as Brisbane’s second team.

Part of the four team expansion in 1995, the Crushers won just 13 games in their time in the ARL and were closed down in late 1997.

Newtown Jets (1908 – 1983)

One club that is no longer a top flight rugby league side and were not involved in the Super League War/NRL condensing was the Newtown Jets.

Part of the NSWRL’s first season in 1908, the three time premiers had several well known names in its squad including Neil Pringle, Tommy Raudonikis and Phil Gould.

They were excluded at the end of 1983 due to financial issues and despite several attempts, they were never allowed back into the competition and now act as the feeder club for Cronulla while playing in the NSW Cup competition.

Gone But Not Forgotten

Four clubs that were ARL fixtures no longer exist in their current form but have been given a second life in the form of mergers.

The Balmain Tigers and Western Suburbs Magpies joined forces at the end of 1999 to be reborn as the Wests Tigers, who won their first premiership as a joint club in 2005.

After one season in the NRL, St George Dragons and Illawarra Steelers merged to become the St George Illawarra Dragons, who claimed their first premiership in 2010.