Broncos blow as Bellamy set to reject switch
Bellamy will sit in the coaches box for an NRL grand final for the ninth time in 18 seasons when Melbourne takes on Penrith at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.
The 2020 decider could be Bellamy's last grand final given the 61-year-old has indicated next season will be his final as head coach of the Storm.
Catch Fox League's Grand Final Week coverage on Kayo. Stream all the latest news and insight right up until kick off plus halftime and full-time analysis from the Fox League commentary team. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
Bellamy is expected to remain in the game beyond next year, with the Storm ready to tailor a consultancy role which would allow him to live in Queensland and oversee Melbourne's football operations while acting as a mentor for his successor.
A role for Aaron would allow him to also relocate to Queensland with the grandchildren Craig speaks so fondly of and is keen to spend more time with.
Bellamy has indicated he will not decide his future until after Melbourne's season is over and the Storm are hoping to receive some guidance on his intentions by December.
But influential Melbourne figures are convinced Bellamy will reject a return to the Broncos for the third time and remain involved with the club he has helped build into an NRL powerhouse since joining in 2003.
"I have known Craig for decades, I roomed with him during our years at the Broncos when he was an assistant to Wayne (Bennett)," said Storm recruitment chief Paul Bunn.
"I honestly believe he will stay at the Storm. I would be shocked if Craig went to the Broncos.
"I just know how much time and effort he has put into making the Storm the great club they are today and I can't see him wanting Melbourne to be dismantled in any way if he coached elsewhere.
"Melbourne will not let him go without a fight. The Broncos might be able to offer Craig money, but I feel he is motivated by other things.
"The Storm have serious pulling power. The Broncos have failed to get him before so I'm confident the Storm will keep Craig again."
Bellamy coached his first NRL grand final in 2006, when Melbourne lost to Brisbane, and was joined the following year at the Storm by football chief Frank Ponissi.
Ponissi and Bellamy have been the two off-field constants throughout Melbourne's decade of dominance since the 2010 salary cap scandal which saw the Storm stripped of their 2007 and 2009 titles.
Ponissi said he felt Bellamy would move to Queensland at some stage but remain involved with the Storm.
"I do (think he will stay with Melbourne), but at the same time I've shown him a level of respect and he doesn't need me to chat about it," he said.
"He's made it clear he will make a decision at the end of the year. In the off-season we will have a chat about it.
"He has made it quite clear he will return to Queensland in a living capacity, but that doesn't mean he's not going to work for the Melbourne Storm. In the role he would play he could be just as effective living away from Melbourne.
"It is huge (that we keep him), especially in being a mentor of the next coach. The next coach of the Melbourne Storm will be someone who's come from the Craig Bellamy stable and had little or no head coaching experience.
"Craig's ability to assist the head coach and staff will be crucial. You will not get a better mentor than Craig Bellamy. It's enormous for us to keep him.
"From a recruitment point of view, when you've got Craig involved in your club it's going to be a lure. From a coaching and recruitment point of view I think it's vital that we retain him."
After the 2006 loss and 2010 salary cap penalties, Bellamy secured his first legitimate premiership in 2012 when the Storm beat Canterbury.
Sunday night's decider will be the fourth grand final the Storm have featured in over the past five years, highlighting Melbourne's consistent dominance.
But the Storm's success has come at a cost, with Bellamy admitting the 2020 campaign has been taxing after Melbourne was forced to relocate to the Sunshine Coast four months ago due to COVID-19.
"This time of the year you're always feeling a little bit fatigued," Bellamy said.
"At the end of the day, you get to the final week and you always find a little bit of energy. That really helps you.
"It's been a different year obviously. I hadn't really sat around thinking about how I'm feeling energy or motivation wise.
"We've all been through some difficult times this year. It's not just this footy team. It's been all the footy teams and people in general, especially down in Melbourne.
"There's plenty of energy this week and hopefully we can finish it off.
"I remember our 2012 grand final win was very emotional because of what happened in 2010.
"If it (win) did happen, we would see it as really special. It was a really different time for the game and for us having to move away from Melbourne for four months."
Bellamy has coached the Storm to 326 wins from 471 games in charge - an exemplary winning record of 69 per cent.
He has helped mould some of the great NRL careers in Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk among others, but Bunn said Bellamy's dedication was the secret to his success over nearly two decades.
"People have no idea how dedicated he is," he said.
"John Ribot and Chris Johns were at the Storm and they kept hearing stories about Craig and how driven and dedicated he was in his pursuit of success. They headhunted Craig because of all the positive feedback they were getting.
"He never stopped working. It was insane. He would be writing notes on planes. He watched videos. He would spend hours and hours cutting up his vision in an era before we had the technology we have today and it was such a time-consuming process.
"He prided himself on getting the boys ready every week with notes and game plans and advice and the boys loved him for it.
"People see vision of him blowing up in the box, but people don't see the way he handles players away from the cameras.
"Ninety nine per cent of the time, Craig is actually a very calm bloke. He doesn't spray them as much as people think."
If Bellamy can guide the Storm to this year's title it could rank among his finest achievements.
The upheaval of the Storm has been an unprecedented task, with 130 players, staff and family members residing at Twin Waters for the bulk of the season.
Much like the past decade, the Storm have not missed a beat and Bellamy credits the club's strong culture to a simple philosophy which has stood the test of time.
"Everyone plays a role in your club," he said.
"The most important trait of our success in the time I've been there is not only have our very talented players been very talented players, they've really cared about the club and their teammates.
"The club recruited some of those guys as really young kids. I'm talking about Cameron, Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk, Ryan Hoffman. There's a whole heap of them, I could go on.
"They're the guys who have made our club what it is. They've worked really hard to make the most of their talent and that's rubbed off on some of the other players.
"The other players that come into our club, if they don't see that, they don't hang around for too long.
"I believe that's what's made our club reasonably successful."
And it's that culture which could prove too difficult for Bellamy to walk away from.