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Renouf: Bellamy catching Bennett in greatest coach race

When you look at what Craig Bellamy has been able to do this year, on top of an already magnificent career, he deserves to be spoken of alongside the great Wayne Bennett when we talk about the greatest coaches our game has seen.

Where does he stand compared to Wayne? If Bellsa hasn't overtaken Wayne, he's definitely now on par with him.

Craig was fortunate enough to spend some time under Wayne at the Broncos back in the 1990s - I was there when he was one of our fitness trainers and he was very astute even in that role.

He really studied his rugby league and was passionate about the way it was played. I remember him being an intense, tough-but-fair trainer who got the best out of us.

I got on well with Bellsa and he was a good guy to have a beer with as well but the lines didn't cross - if you were coming back from injury and doing one-on-one training, you did what you were told and got flogged. I had the utmost respect for him and could see he had the footy brain to be a coach.

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He was always going to take a lot of what he learned from Wayne but what he's done in Melbourne has been unbelievable.

Craig has some natural similarities to Wayne – they both have wonderful footy brains, command the respect of their players and know how to get the best out of them but he's also very much his own man.

Pretty much his whole career at the Storm he's had a really good group of young men and that all starts with the coach.

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Yes, he's had one of the greatest spines to work with in Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk but those players weren't in high demand before they went to Melbourne and who knows if they'd have had such successful careers if not for Bellamy's guidance.

And when you look at what they've done this year, the rules have completely changed from what they were when they won in 2017 and even pretty significantly from when they took out the Telstra Premiership last year.

For a long time we've associated the Storm as being a team that's strong in the wrestle and one that grinds other sides down.

But they've adapted to quickly to the six-again rules, the players have been able to respond to what's in front of them, they've totally revamped their game plan and now they're just blowing teams away and haven't lost a game since round three.

I thought the changes might have caused more of a problem for Melbourne but they simply combat everything that's thrown at them.

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And don't forget they've had to do all that this year without Cameron Smith. Arguably the most influential player to play our game retired at the end of last season and they've hardly missed a beat.

Probably the one area Wayne definitely has it over Craig is the representative coaching because Wayne has done it all.

He's one of the great Origin coaches, had a very successful Test coaching career with Australia and has been able to help the New Zealand and England national sides as well whereas Craig's only really had a brief representative coaching career and it wasn't all that successful.

Wayne's always been able to juggle both really well. He's done it at every level and consistently over a long period of time.

I've been coached by Wayne at every level. If you go back to 1998, we won a premiership, an Origin series and a Test series under Wayne.

Even last year he dipped back in with Origin, straight from his club duties and brought the supposedly "worst team ever" home to series win.

So Wayne certainly gets the nod in that department but at club level there's been none better than Craig during the period of his career.

He's the template for a modern-day coach, he deserves everything he gets and there's no way that he can't be the Dally M Coach of the Year for 2021.

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The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARL Commission, NRL clubs or state associations.


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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.