It all started with some friendly jabs and jibes…. Craig Bellamy thinks he's not as smart as Ricky Stuart.
"Send me Craig's questions and I'll do both," Stuart replies when NRL.com asks them the same set of questions ahead of Friday night's preliminary final.
"Okay, Margie, so can you make my questions easier than his as he's smarter than me – well that's what he tells everyone!"
Dig a little deeper into the Bellamy-Stuart relationship and you find something that's longer-lasting than your basic 'man crush'. Look at the answers they gave separately and see it.
They met as Canberra Raiders players and became firm friends despite a nine-year age gap.
Here they give some insight into why the bond has lasted more than 30 years and will last another 30 regardless of the result at Suncorp Stadium this week.
Get Caught Up: Finals Week 2
Mate vs Mate
Q: There’s been many good players and great blokes come out of that Raiders team from your era so why did you two strike up such a good friendship?
Bellamy: It's interesting when you look back because you don't think of it at the time. He's a fair bit younger than me.
I'd heard about him because of his rugby union career and he had a reputation of being a bit of a larrikin around town as well.
But we just clicked straight away and I'm still not quite sure why. Perhaps because we both shared a blue-collar background. And while there were a few others like that, our grounding seemed very similar.
The odd couple
The friendship just kept building from there and when we both moved away we still kept in touch, we've always stayed in touch. I ring him most weeks. I'll ring him this week before we play.
Stuart: Craig was an inaugural Raider and a senior player, but he and I immediately clicked.
Craig and I knew a little bit about each other from being in Queanbeyan at that same time before I was a Raider. I was recruited in 1988 to the club and the competition had already commenced – six matches had been played.
Bellyache is a very humble, loyal bloke and he really helped my transition back into rugby league from union.
Being a young bloke with a big change in life going from union to a completely different surrounding, Craig gave me his time. There was a lot to learn, understand and adapt to, and I needed to get it done quickly.
I always appreciated the time he gave me. He didn’t have to but he did.
With a lot of the other boys Bellyache and I spent a lot of time together away from footy and the mateship just grew.
Best of frenemies: The next instalment of Storm-Raiders rivalry
Q: ‘Bellyache' and 'Sticky'. Are these nicknames too harsh or spot on?
Stuart: Not harsh enough. When you put Bellamy and whinge together, Bellyache is developed.
Bellamy: I do call him Sticky and I don't know if he started it but I remember at the Raiders he used to take the first letter from people's names and swap them around. So he became 'Sticky Ruart'.
I don't think there's anything more behind it than that… he became Sticky and it stuck.
Q: What’s the one trait of the other you wish you had?
Bellamy: I wished I had his footy abilities when I was playing. He was a remarkable player so I would have liked some of that talent.
But I admire how he gets on with things, keeps plugging away even in the face of some adversity. He's had setbacks in his footy career and coaching career at a few clubs… and some personally.
He keeps finding a way to hang in there – he's a very mentally tough bloke. He's a great role model in that respect.
Stuart: The same as he was as a player is now how he coaches. I love his mental toughness and the way he goes and gets what he wants.
Match: Storm v Raiders
Finals Week 3 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Q: What makes him such a good coach?
Bellamy: There's two important things here. He knows the game really well, and how he played it he was always the brains and the driver behind what needed to happen and at what time.
He reads the game so well. He knows what to do and then gets it done. He's got that personality of being the boss because he learnt the game over a long period of time at a very high level.
The other thing is Stick just gets on well with people, whether he's working with his players and staff inside the club, or he's out and about in the community. He's just a real personable bloke.
He makes a good connection with people… and he likes a beer!
Stuart: People talk about Craig’s work ethic and meticulous preparation and he definitely is very good at those two things.
As important as all that is, Craig’s genuine relationship and the connection he builds with his players makes him an even better coach.
It's only my opinion but I believe this feature has been a major contributor to his club's longevity of being such a successful organisation.
Q: Is coaching against each other hard because you're good mates, or because you respect the other's coaching ability so much?
Stuart: The hardest thing is that I love him as one of my close mates, and usually when one of your mates wants something you try to get it for them.
Unfortunately this weekend, when we are against each other in footy, I don’t want to give him what he wants.
And that’s where it becomes difficult.
Then there were four …
Bellamy: A bit of both. It's always hard going up against a good mate because someone's going to win and someone's going to lose.
The thing with Sticky is that we know the Raiders are a good side and that means they're well coached. They've flourished the last few years under him.
I don't think this week 'What's Ricky going to do?' because I know they're going to be very, very well prepared and there's going to be one or two things that will happen that I've not seen before.
So you always get the unexpected from Stick. And that's why the Raiders are where they are.
But in the end it is only a game of football. We have a little tradition that the winner brings a beer into the loser and we meet as friends – we don't rub it in.