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How Bellamy unearthed Storm's next hidden gem

Finding hidden gems has become a key area of excellence within Craig Bellamy’s coaching career. 

Such is his pedigree for finding unwanted or potentially out of form players and turning them into consistent first graders, in his 22-years at the helm, Melbourne Storm’s identity has been shaped around a club that works hard and does all the little things right.

While they may not necessarily be household names outside the four walls of the AAMI Park office, these ‘roleplayers’ don’t need to be stealing the headlights on a weekly basis to be earning the respect of the head coach. 

Yet another example of this kind of player is Eliesa Katoa. A naturally talented backrower elevating his game to a new level since coming under Bellamy’s reign. 

Speaking with Melbourne Storm, Katoa had nothing but praise for his experienced coach, crediting the faith and trust shown by Bellamy as a huge part in his rapid development since arriving at the Club ahead of the 2023 season. 

“I think a big part of it is Belza [Craig Bellamy], he's the type of coach that you want to play for," Katoa said.

“Before games he just tells me to be myself, play to my strengths and do what I know I can do and that’s what I want to hear.

“I want someone to tell me to back myself instead of someone telling me what to do or how to play.

“He’s so good at what he does and just wants you to be yourself on the field.”

Katoa goes ova!

After bursting onto the scene in his debut year with the New Zealand Warriors, Katoa then battled for regular game time over the next two seasons, with the former Rugby Union product eventually granted a release from his contract. 

Now finding a home in Melbourne, the 24-year old said the stability of Bellamy and the systems put in place by the Club has allowed him the freedom to focus on his footy. 

"I had a really good first season at the Warriors under Stephen Kearney and while I absolutely loved him, in my three years there I think I had four different head coaches.

"I couldn't say no when the Storm came to me as I knew the history of the club and knew how well they've been going and since I'm still young, I just told myself to go there and learn all the basics it will help me not just now but in the future.”

Featuring in every game for Storm this season, Katoa’s ‘simple gameplan’ is already working wonders with the Tongan ‘A’ International amassing four tries, 12 offloads and nearly 1,000 run metres in just nine games. 

In just his second year at the Club, Katoa’s already shaping up to be a key cog in the Club’s forward pack and yet another one of Bellamy’s hidden gems. 

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.