Bombers target Bellamy for explosive expansion plans
MELBOURNE Storm coach Craig Bellamy has held talks with the Brisbane Bombers consortium as the ARL Commission prepares to ramp-up plans to introduce a 17th NRL team to take on the Broncos in Queensland.
Bellamy backed plans to launch a second Brisbane team amid revelations Bombers bid chiefs have met regularly with the Melbourne mentor to head-up their football program pending NRL admission in 2023.
Sources close to the ARL Commission have indicated expansion is happening. ARLC chairman Peter V'landys wants a 17th team and he will convey that message to NRL broadcasters Fox Sports and Channel 9 when negotiations on the next TV rights deal begin later this year.
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Perth's bid is dead in the water with V'landys keen to value-add by pushing for a second Brisbane team in a bid to broker a $2 billion-plus broadcast deal from 2023.
Aware of the ARLC's plans, the Bombers have been proactive, identifying Bellamy as their No.1 target to be the club's coaching director when his commitments to the Storm eventually cease.
Bombers director Craig Davison and Bellamy met most recently last Christmas at the Storm coach's property on the Gold Coast for informal talks.
The parties have longstanding ties, with the consortium secretly approaching Bellamy in 2012 when their bid to enter the big league first gathered steam.
There is no suggestion Bellamy is quitting the Storm. The premiership-winning coach is contracted to Melbourne until the end of next year, but at 61 Bellamy has no plans to emulate Wayne Bennett by coaching into his 70s.
However, with his Storm deal ending in 2021, Bellamy would be a free agent for any new NRL side in 2023 - and the Bombers have targeted him to implement their structures.
The former Broncos assistant insists he has given no formal commitment to the Bombers, but has urged the ARL Commission to give the Queensland people a fourth NRL team.
"It's too early to say if I would be involved (with the Bombers) but I have a good relationship with Craig Davison," Bellamy said.
"I was in discussion with Craig when the Bombers put together a proposal for NRL entry several years ago.
"In my opinion, if the NRL does expand, a second Brisbane team is the way to go."
The Bombers, Redcliffe and Ipswich's western-corridor bid are the three major contenders to become Brisbane's second team.
But any consortium which could secure the services of Bellamy, widely considered the finest club coach in the code, would present an irresistible case with the ARL Commission.
The Bombers, rather than Bellamy, initiated contact.
The Storm mentor has been briefed on the Bombers' business model and their desire for Bellamy to drive their cultural DNA and footballing structures while providing support for a younger head coach.
Bellamy has given 17 remarkable years to Melbourne but has family ties in Queensland with his daughter living on the Gold Coast.
Bombers major shareholder Davison said the consortium could be up and running by 2023, especially if Bellamy opted for a move back to Brisbane to be part of history.
"We will look at all top-line coaches and Craig Bellamy is arguably the best in the business," he said.
"If a licence is granted to us, we will not hesitate in talking to him.
"We are awaiting formal confirmation from the NRL on when they are going to expand.
"The Bombers' systems and structures and financial models are there.
"We've put in nine years of work and with some minor tweaks, our business plan can be brought up to date for the Bombers to be operational by 2023."