How did Craig Bellamy become the coach of Melbourne Storm?
It is an obvious question that perhaps few know the actual answer to.
To find out you have to go all the way back to 2002. Storm had just completed their fifth season of existence and finished in 10th place – a result that remains the poorest in the Club’s history.
Mark Murray had brought stability to the coaching and playing group however both he and Melbourne made the decision to mutually part ways at the end of that year.
So Storm entered the open market and set about looking for its third coach in six years.
As is common practice with these kind of things the Club hierarchy began picking up the phone and calling around in search of candidates. It did not take long for one name to start to stand out.
“Everywhere I rang they said, ‘Craig Bellamy, have you looked at him?’,” Storm founder and CEO at the time John Ribot said.
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At the time Bellamy was an assistant coach under Wayne Bennett at the Brisbane Broncos. Prior to that he spent much of his playing career in the 1980s under another coaching legend in Tim Sheens.
Bellamy certainly came from good pedigree and all the feedback on him made it impossible for Melbourne not to enquire about his availability.
However Wests Tigers were also interested in luring the coach-in-waiting so Ribot booked a flight to Brisbane and arranged to meet Bellamy at the Coffee Club in The Gap, Brisbane.
It was there, over a latte, that it all happened.
“Something that was going to be half an hour, getting a feel for each other, turned into a two-and-a-half-hour coffee,” Ribot said.
“I saw all the things you look for in a coach. A guy that was going to give you good leadership, had a really good work ethic, an amazing understanding of the game and was a fantastic communicator. Craig just ticketed all those boxes.
“After those few hours I just thought, ‘Wow, we are going to go really hard for Craig.’
“I just knew he was going to be a great fit for our organisation. All the good things you look for in people, Craig had all those qualities.”
A month later the contract was signed and Craig Bellamy was the new coach of Melbourne Storm.
“He came for all the right reasons,” Ribot said.
“It was not a big money grab, there was a great opportunity for him down here and what he wanted to do for our Club, we felt like we could really support him. I like to think that he understood he was coming to a real football Club that wanted to win football games. We had big expectations of where we wanted to go.
From the moment Bellamy arrived for the start of the 2003 Melbourne Storm would never be the same.
Everything was about improvement, as players, as people, in every aspect, the coach was determined to make this Club the best it could possibly could be.
“All of a sudden the training went to another level,” Ribot said.
“The expectations on players not only on the field but off the field went to another level, about being respectful to other people and doing the right thing.
“Even his approach to trial matches – once it is game on, it is game on. He expects the best of his players because he is giving you his best and that becomes infectious.”
Fast forward to the present day and when Craig Bellamy enters the coaches box for the 400th time on Saturday he will do so with a resume that few, if any, could match.
A winning ratio of 68 per cent is the highest any coach to win more than 230 NRL games.
Under Bellamy’s watch, Melbourne have played in 14 of a possible 15 finals series, made seven grand finals, won six Minor Premierships, four Premierships and three World Club championships.
So what is it that has made him so successful?
Perhaps it can all be traced back to that first meeting over coffee in Brisbane back in 2002.
“When you have a conversation with Craig you never leave the room wondering what he thinks,” Ribot said.
“He is such a black and white guy with what he wants and his expectations, he leads from the front. He is such an honest person, every conversation I’ve had with him you know where you stand.
“As he stands at the moment he is one of the great coaches of our game, ever. You don’t fluke coaching 400 games and winning Premierships, World Club Championships and Minor Premierships.”