Melbourne have Andrew ‘Joey’ Johns to thank for Craig Bellamy signing on for another season, with the master coach saying the former NRL star persuaded him to stay.
But the coaching mastermind has revealed his players had a very cheeky reaction when they heard he’d be sticking with the club instead of retiring.
The Storm announced on Wednesday that Bellamy would be at the helm for an incredible 21st season in 2023.
But when CEO Justin Rodski told the players the notoriously hard taskmaster known as ‘Bellyache’ was returning next season, they didn’t exactly cheer and applaud.
‘They were all good – there was a bit of booing but it was in the right spirit,’ Bellamy told the Daily Telegraph.
The coach said Johns called him a few weeks ago while he was still deciding whether to remain as coach or move to a part-time director of coaching role with the NRL club.
Bellamy (pictured centre with Storm stars Jesse Bromwich, left, and Christian Welch, right) has propelled Melbourne to incredible success – but his players weren’t exactly overjoyed when they discovered he is returning in 2023
Bellamy has taken the Storm to three grand final wins in his 20 years with the club and the team has hardly ever been out of contention for a title
‘It took a while to get there and there were a few things that stalled the decision,’ Bellamy said.
‘I turned a bit of a corner when I had a chat to Joey Johns – Andrew rang me a couple of weeks ago and made a couple of points and it seemed to make a bit of sense to me and that swung me the way I decided to go.’
Bellamy didn’t want to illuminate their conversation but said he appreciated the input from Johns.
‘I will leave that between me and Joey but I appreciate him ringing me up and that was the main thing that turned me.’
Johns later revealed what the pair talked about.
‘I pretty much said you are crazy if you finish up, you have so much to offer,’ the Newcastle legend said.
‘You talk about the best coaches ever and he is in the top three. What he has done with that club — the club has totally reinvented itself two or three times.
‘Other clubs lose champions and they just go into a hole. When you talk about best coaches, he is in the argument as the best ever.’
Knights legend Andrew Johns revealed he told Bellamy he would be ‘crazy’ to give coaching away because he still has so much to offer the game
The 63-year-old didn’t rule out coaching beyond 2023 and is contracted to the Storm until the end of 2026, but said he also wanted to spend more time with his four grandchildren.
‘There’s a couple of things I want to do before I get too old,’ he said.
‘We will see what happens in this 12 months and go from there.’
Since taking over as coach in 2003 Bellamy has steered the team to nine grand finals, winning five, although two were stripped for salary cap cheating.
Storm CEO Justin Rodski said the club was delighted with Bellamy’s decision.
‘There’s no doubt that Craig is still at the top of the tree when it comes to rugby league coaching,’ Rodski said.
‘He is continuing to produce outstanding results week after week, season after season with the support of a very dedicated coaching and high performance team.’
The Storm are second on the NRL ladder after 10 rounds and trail defending champions Penrith by two points after losing their Magic Round clash in Brisbane last week.
Former mentor Wayne Bennett welcomed Bellamy’s decision as he prepares to coach against him for newcomers the Dolphins next season.
‘I’m pleased; if he’s still enjoying it and that’s what he wants to do, why would you retire?’ Bennett said.
The super coach will have his work cut out for him next year as Melbourne lose stars Jesse and Kenny Bromwich, Felise Kaufusi and Brandon Smith – but he’s got a proven track record of keeping the team highly competitive despite big changes to the club’s list
‘You don’t get less knowledge as we get older. Enthusiasm and the passion for what you do has to remain, but you learn something every year.’
It’s a relief for Melbourne given they are set to lose a number of veterans with skipper Jesse Bromwich, his brother Kenny and fellow representative forward Felise Kaufusi all leaving for the Dolphins at the end of the year while Brandon Smith is heading to the Sydney Roosters.
Bellamy’s one-year contract could potentially impact the future of superstar playmaker Cameron Munster, who is off contract at the end of 2023.
Hotly pursued by at least six clubs, he’s expected to make a decision in coming weeks.
‘I’ve spoken to him a couple of times and obviously made the point of how keen the club is to keep him long term,’ Bellamy said of Munster.
‘He’s got his decision to make … we don’t want any of those players leaving but the decision they make is the best for them and their family.’