Nineties nostalgia FOR BEARS legend
Living in Northbridge, Jason Taylor still gets baled up by North Sydney Bears diehards to talk about the glory days.
But 'JT', who is now Wests Tigers head coach, doesn't mind because he also gets a bit nostalgic from time to time.
"My best memories come from those days with the Bears," he tells North Shore Living.
"I was lucky enough to play with some great players and my career there was everything I hoped for as a young bloke trying to crack first-grade.
"To play that many games and captain a club like the North Sydney Bears is very special."
Taylor is third on the all-time point scorers list, behind only Hazem El Mazri and Andrew Johns; he played for NSW and City; was named at halfback in the Bears Team of the Century; and won the Rothmans Medal in 1996. This was all in an illustrious career that spanned four clubs (Wests, Norths, Northern Eagles and Parramatta) and 12 seasons.
He also has the standing records for the most games played in succession (194) and the highest career goal kicking tally (excluding representative games) with 942.
"Thinking about all that does put a smile on my face, just because of the time I put into it. I worked really hard and got the best out of myself," he reflects.
"I mean, I was a skinny runt when I started and I wasn't much bigger when I finished, so I'm proud of what I achieved."
Unfortunately for Bears fans, his list of accomplishments doesn't include a premiership. In close to a century, the only additions to the Bears trophy cabinet have been reserve-grade silverware. Although he admits it would have been nice to add to the 1921 and 1922 titles, it's something he has come to terms with.
"It used to bother me and everybody wants to focus on it but by doing that you take away from the really good achievements you get to be a part of," he says.
Instead, it's the foundation club's demise that really hurts.
"That's the real disappointment - it's not missing out on a premiership, it's the Bears folding," he continues.
"Not seeing them in the competition is something that is still very sad."
He feels especially for the club's fans, who are about to endure their 16th season without an NRL team. "Bears fans are the best fans in the game, in relation to the respect they give the players," Taylor says. Ideally, he'd love to see a Bears resurrection and he fully supports the Central Coast Bears' bid, but in the meantime he suggests North Shore locals become Tigers supporters. "We'd love to have them," he smiles.
"I know many of them that have gone from one team to another since but they're all just holding out for the Bears' comeback."
As for coaching, Taylor says he just wanted to still be a part of the game. He started in the media but picked up a coaching role with the Parramatta Eels and never looked back.
"Brian Smith once told me coaching is tough but you get a different kind of enjoyment or satisfaction from it, and that's how I'm finding it," he says.
So go on Bears fans, barrack for the Tigers this year and by default, one of the North Sydney Bears' greats.