Craig Bellamy has revealed the key role Storm superstar Cameron Munster played in the Melbourne's coach's shock decision to commit to the NRL side in 2024. Speculation has been swirling for months that the veteran coach would call it quits in 2023, before Bellamy made the bombshell announcement on Monday that he would still be the Storm's coach next season.
At the helm since 2003, Bellamy is contracted with the club through 2026 but had the option to transition into a coaching director role when he felt the time was right. On numerous occasions, Bellamy had suggested that time was imminent, with the 63-year-old admitting as recently as one week ago that he was unsure whether he would still be at the helm next year.
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Bellamy says he has sort advice from people outside of rugby league about what semi-retirement would look like for a man whose passion for the sport is obvious for all to see. However, the Storm coach says a recent plea from his star playmaker Munster helped convince the coaching maestro to go on again in 2024.
"Munster came to me a couple of weeks ago and I don't usually take his advice on life but he said all of the players, and especially the leaders, were very keen for me to stay and they still thought I had something to give to the group," Bellamy said in a club audio statement on Monday. "That probably started turning me and then the last couple of weeks I decided to go again.
"I still enjoy turning up and mixing with the group here and the staff and I think I've still got something to give after the Munster talk and working with these young guys and trying to help them achieve their dreams of being an NRL player."
Craig Bellamy's big retirement backflip
Bellamy says he was convinced two months ago that he "was gone" after the current season and admitted to the Sydney Morning Herald that he had performed “a 180-degree turnaround” with regard to his decision to retire. “Eight weeks ago I was gone. Finished. But I’ve been speaking to a lot of blokes about retiring and I came to realise you are a long time retired,” he said.
The 63-year-old has spoken openly about the challenge of mentoring an inexperienced playing group after more than a decade of dominance that has included three NRL premierships. "Early in my career it's about yourself but as it's gone on, for me, it's about our group improving as individuals," he added.
"I know if we improve as individuals we will improve as a team. I want to try and help these young blokes be the best version of themselves as footy players as they can be. I'm a bit excited about how much improvement we've got in us."
Club legend Cameron Smith insisted the fifth-placed Storm's solid start to the season contributed to Bellamy's decision. "He's contemplated it a few times now, finishing up," the three-time premiership winner told SEN. "But when you're still getting results and the team is still performing for you, I guess that's the reason why you stick around.
"It doesn't surprise me that he's going around again, although I will say that I thought he was going to finish up this year. But I'm not overly shocked that he's recommitted. He's the type of guy that loves the Melbourne Storm, he loves rugby league and he loves coaching."
Bellamy's decision clears the air for St George Illawarra to pursue Jason Ryles as a potential head-coaching option for 2024. The Dragons are actively sounding out candidates to replace Anthony Griffin next season and reportedly held informal talks with the highly-rated Sydney Roosters assistant last week.
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