The Bear Essentials- For Toronto Fan's
6 amazing facts ahead of the Toronto Wolfpack v Coventry Bears
by Mike Hyde
The origins of the Bear
Torontonians may be puzzled why a team from Coventry should call itself the Bears, surely they are more associated with Canada than with England?
Well, let’s go back to the time of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, when Arthgallus, Earl of Warwick chose the Bear as an emblem as it was associated with bravery, and ever since then it has been used as a badge across Coventry & Warwickshire. You can see it everywhere, on public buildings, businesses and other sports clubs.
And that’s why Coventry’s Rugby League team called themselves the Bears.
Usually the Bear is depicted with a branch of a tree [known as a staff], and this is because Morvidus, yet another Earl of Warwick, used it to defeat a giant, so add this to the bravery of the bear and you might stand a chance against Fui Fui Moi Moi!
Coventry and the colour Blue
The term 'True blue' is supposed to derive from the blue cloth that was made at Coventry, England in the late middle ages and 13th century. The town's dyers had a reputation for producing material that didn't fade with washing, The phrase 'as true as Coventry blue' originated then and is still used today hence also the blue of the Coventry Bears branding! The Bears also play in Red and Black which are colours also associated with Coventry and Warwickshire.
Early RL Heritage
Rugby League started in the North of England back in the nineteenth century with most teams close to each other.
Then in 1910, they were joined by a team from Coventry who lasted just three seasons. Travelling to away fixtures by train would have taken hours, and the journey back would have seemed even longer especially after a defeat. Amazing to think that today’s Coventry side will play in Canada.
Then came the First World War, and how many of the guys in the photo would have survived that terrible Carnage?
It is a fitting tribute that Coventry Bears home kit of dark and light blue hoops so closely resembles that from over a century ago.
Amateur Years 1998-2015
Whilst many think of Rugby League as a fast and exciting game played by strong, highly paid professional athletes, that is the tip of the iceberg; the vast majority of RL is played at amateur level by people who simply love the sport.
This was true of Alan Robinson [now the Bears owner], who along with a group of fellow students started a team in Coventry back in 1998.
Over the years, they continued to improve, often challenging for silverware in regional and national competitions at their level.
But it was to be the hugest leap ever to move up several leagues and turn semi -professional almost overnight.
At which point we need to shamelessly mention ‘In this Together’, a new book chronicling the rise of the Bears, available order from the Bears online shop on our website.
New Kids on the Block; 2015 onwards
In 2015, Coventry Bears were admitted to the third tier of Rugby League as a semi-professional side, two years after Oxford joined. This made them the newest club to join, and as recent joiners have been from Toulouse and now Toronto, they are still England’s newest semi-pro RL side.
Things have been tough, finishing in the lower half of the league in the first two seasons, but our project is a long term one, developing and growing a team of young players, an increasing number of whom are local lads or who are combining study at the local universities with playing part time.
Season ticket sales are way up and the Bears have a loyal and solid fan base on which to build as the team improves and grows.
The focus on development sees our work off the field of play as being as important, if not more so, than what happens on the field.
Bears in the Community
Our club is very much part of the community and does a vast amount of work introducing youngsters in schools into the game with initiatives such as Bear Cubs. In just two years our community coaches shave held sessions with a staggering 2,500 schoolkids.
We also run fitness sessions at community centres indifferent parts of the city. And we are fully into initiatives such as Sky Try, a national programme funded by Sky Television, and are an integral part of City of Rugby, as we promote the health and wellbeing aspects of sport involvement.
Longer term, we hope to see more players produced locally. We look forward to the day, maybe in ten or fifteen years’ time when a Coventry born player takes to the field in Super League, hopefully for the Bears but if not maybe playing for the Wolfpack!
A word about our sponsors
As a new venture, this is very important to us and we rely on their backing. We actively work with them and get them involved in what we do in the community as well as on the pitch, and they are very much part of the Bears story as it develops.
Sytner are a major car dealership chain, selling BMW and MINI cars, whilst the golden archways of McDonalds need little introduction.
The result of this is that we believe the Bears hold the accolade of being the only team in any sport to feature three of the UK’s top 25 brands on their shirts. Salford, Wigan, even soccer’s Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal can’t manage what the Bears have achieved in brand sponsorship!
Become a follower of the Bears on Twitter and join us on the journey to Toronto.
Coventry Bears: @CoventryBearsrl
Alan Robinson: @coventrybear
Tom Tsang: @tomtsang13