Thursday 23 February 2023

Rugby League History: Tim Horan was almost a North Sydney Bear in 1995

Published February 23, 2023 
🐻 This was apparently a done deal in '94 for the '95 Winfield Cup...
23 year old Australian Wallabies sensation Tim Horan would become a North Sydney Bear.
The Bears had already tasted success in the player market by luring Jason Taylor to the club from Wests for the '94 season and had plans to surround the talented playmaker with high quality outside backs to complement their powerful forward pack.
And for a little while in '94, those plans had seemingly come to fruition with Horan verbally agreeing to a deal to switch codes and join the Bears for '95.
Then disaster struck.
In May '94 just days before his 24th birthday, Horan blew out his knee in the Super 10 Final playing for the Queensland Reds and the injury was so bad his career seemed in serious doubt. 
The story goes that he approached North Sydney boss Bob Saunders with the news about his injury and Norths agreed to release him - perhaps at Horan's request or perhaps to avoid paying Horan to not play a whole season - from his verbal deal with the Bears before a contract was actually signed.
“I virtually agreed to join North Sydney, but I injured my knee and said I probably wouldn’t play rugby league again, so I let that one go," Horan told SEN Radio in 2022. 
Now Norths did go on to recruit two promising outside backs to replace him, in Illawarra pair Nigel Roy and Jody Rudd for the '95 season, but obviously neither were of the class of Horan.
Roy enjoyed a good career with the Bears playing regular first grade from '95-99 scoring 35 tries in 117 games, however Rudd only played 5 games for the Bears in '95 before joining Balmain in '97.
Another thing to consider is prior to the Horan agreement/nullification, the Bears had lucked into picking up Canberra winger Sean Hoppe for the '94 season due to the Kiwi being released by the Raiders at the end of '93 for choosing to sign with the new Auckland Warriors side for '95. So the Bears probably figured if they signed Horan they could more than cover for the loss of an impact player like Hoppe (who would help the team reach a Preliminary Final in '94).
So in effect, the Bears would end up exchanging Hoppe and Horan for Roy and Rudd.
By '96 however, Taylor had his outside backs (thanks to the Super League/ARL signing war of '95) but that's a story for another time.
Speaking of Horan - he would end up securing legend status as a Wallaby in the years that followed his 'return' to Rugby.
Although a slow recovery process, he did make it back from his badly damaged knee to play in the '95 Rugby World Cup for Australia and he would also win a second World Cup in '99 (to go with his victory in '91) - and in all, he played 80 Tests for Australia during a golden age for the Wallabies.
But Horan never set foot on North Sydney Oval for the Bears... so one wonders what might have been if Norths had chosen not to release him from his lucrative Rugby League deal in '94?
The Bears had lured Jason Taylor to the club in '94 but Horan slipped away.

In the chat with SEN Radio in 2022 - Horan also explained that he had meetings with Balmain in '91 (then coached by former Wallabies coach Alan Jones) and also had an offer from Wigan to head to England.
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