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Storm coach Craig Bellamy.

Ryan Papenhuyzen, Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Brandon Smith were still a year or two away from starting school when Craig Bellamy took over as head coach in Melbourne.

That's how long – 18 years to be exact – that Bellamy has been fronting up to be the figurehead of the Storm's NRL team.

In the club's 21-year history there have only been three coaches – two in the first five years (Chris Anderson, Mark Murray) and then Bellamy since 2003.

It makes you wonder what motivates the man who has seemingly done it all – secured the J.J. Giltinan Shield for the minor premiership, reached grand finals, won grand finals – and all multiple times.

"I'm not really sure sometimes. I don't sit around thinking about it too much," said Bellamy when asked what motivated him as he prepares for his 18th NRL season, kicking off in March 2020.

"I suppose it comes naturally to me. I always have the mentality that if you want to do something then do it as well as you can.

"You need to put time and effort into doing something well – that's just the way it is. I also think motivation changes over time but for me it's basically the same each year," Bellamy said.

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"I just want to help players, coaches, young people be the best they can be by doing all I can to listen and talk to them, show them, work with them.

"I really enjoy seeing players going on doing bigger and better things [at representative level] or even just bringing players into the NRL and seeing them realise that goal. I get a real kick out of seeing that.

"I even like seeing coaches go on and develop themselves." 

A quick headcount reveals six current NRL coaches learned part of their trade under Bellamy: Brad Arthur (Eels), Anthony Seibold (Broncos), Stephen Kearney (Warriors), Dean Pay (Bulldogs), Michael Maguire (Wests Tigers) and most recently Adam O'Brien (Knights).

"On second thought I probably enjoy the players more getting that start in first grade," Bellamy said.

Thinking back to his debut year at the Storm and where he stands now, Bellamy doesn't feel there has been a big shift in his coaching methodology.

"Your values don't change as each year goes on. But definitely the experiences I've had shape me a bit," he said.

"I get a bit more confident about what I'm doing, decisions that I make, from the more experience I get. I certainly don't know everything but I see it as important to keep seeing new things and trying new things.

"You've got to keep looking and trying to get better. Even if something I pick up doesn't necessarily help me, it might help someone else in the club.

"So I try to get better by educating myself and going to see what other teams, other coaches and other organisations are doing."

Every off-season Bellamy takes himself to basketball, soccer, rugby union clubs across the USA or Europe.

This time he stretched himself differently and targeted individuals rather than organisations.

"Usually we go and spend a little time with teams – a week or so to see their routines and methods," he said.

"But I didn't do that this time. I went to see a few individual people like sports psychs and recovery experts.

"I visited New York's fire department training academy which was really interesting and more to look at the mental side of things. Surprisingly they were very open with us on what they learn as firemen, how they cope and what they do to maintain their health."

Bellamy's done enough to leave a lasting mark at the Storm. His current contract ends in 2021. His virtual on-field coach for all his 18 years, skipper Cameron Smith, has signed on until the end of 2020.

What would life be like coaching the Storm without Smith?

"Well another 12 months to two years is a long time. I know if that does happen it will be a bit tougher job for me. He's a great help to me and a great leader around the place," Bellamy said.

There's been no plans formulated between the AAMI Park walls to guard against losing Bellamy and Smith at the same time.

"That hasn't been discussed. But in hindsight I think we learned a little from losing Cooper [Cronk] and Billy [Slater] at different times," Bellamy said.

"It was always going to be tough see those two go. Cooper going two years ago and then Billy 12 months ago made it just a little easier on us. Going together would have made it much harder.

"We hadn't sort of planned it that way, even though I was always aware of that [the risk of losing them at same time].

"Ideally I wanted them to go separate years and then it sorted itself out individually anyway. Those decision were made by the guys themselves. That's the way I always wanted it. I didn't want the club to have to make a decision for them.

"They'd done enough for this club to make the call themselves."

The same courtesy would be extended to Bellamy. He'll be 63 by the time his current contract ends. He's unsure what likes ahead or where he'll be when he turns 64.

"I've got another contract for two years and that's a long time in footy."

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There's a World Cup in 2021. It might be nice to end his stellar coaching career with an international gig. He's been a Kangaroos assistant but his other rep honours were NSW Country and NSW Origin.

"Realistically it's two years away and no-one has approached me. I've got enough on my plate to think about right now than worrying what might be around in 2021," Bellamy said, making the point firmly that he has had no discussions with Samoa, as reported last month.

Son Aaron and his partner are about to welcome another baby – Bellamy's third grandchild – in February. Aaron works in the Storm's football department, so there's an immediate link to stay in Melbourne a little longer, even if Bellamy isn't coaching.

But that's all in the future. More immediately you'd think revenge might be on Bellamy's mind.

He took Melbourne to three successive grand finals in 2016, 2017 and 2018 before falling at the preliminary final hurdle in 2019. But the former electrician isn't interested in re-wiring anything next season to make up for that missed opportunity.

"Whether we've made a grand final, or made a top-four, or whatever, I come back ready to roll again… very focused on what I need to do – just get in there and do it.

"You need a lot of things to go your way to get there [to the grand final] but if you do your individual job the best you can from the very start of the season, then hopefully the rest looks after itself."

It will be a far different season though. Bellamy has lost both his strike centres Will Chambers (rugby union) and Curtis Scott (Raiders). He also lost a couple of halves in Brodie Croft (Broncos) and Billy Walters (Wests Tigers) alongside a quality forward in Joe Stimson (Bulldogs).

"We still want to bolster our outside backs a bit. Certainly we've not finished [recruiting yet]. We've got a couple of spots in our top 30," Bellamy said.

"We'll need to look at that and bring a couple more recruits into our top squad. We're certainly looking at outside backs for that."

Acknowledgement of Country

Melbourne Storm respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.