Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy's future in the NRL has emerged as a major talking point following his side's 28-12 Magic Round loss to premiership fancies South Sydney, with the Storm's near two decades of dominance potentially at an end. The Rabbitohs have won five straight since their round five loss to the Storm, avenging that defeat in style at Suncorp Stadium.
The sight of a despondent Bellamy in the Storm coaching box sparked a fresh wave of speculation about his future with the club, where he has held the head coaching position since 2003. While the Storm weren't tabbed as premiership contenders, their 5-4 record after 10 rounds has placed them firmly in the middle of the NRL pack - a far cry from their regular dominance under Bellamy.
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Having brushed off suggestions he'd chase Wayne Bennett's NRL record of 900 matches coached with a laugh last week, Bellamy said he was hoping to make a decision on his future in the coming weeks. Talk of him moving on from the Storm after 20 years only gained momentum when former Storm star and Queensland Maroons coach Billy Slater was spotted in the Melbourne rooms after the match in conversation with Bellamy and other coaching staff.
Speaking on Fox League, fellow Storm alumni Cooper Cronk said it was clear Bellamy was still in two minds about moving on. The veteran coach had said before the season began that he was 'pretty sure' it would be his last season with the club.
“I know he’s still got the connection to the playing group and connection to the football club but things may have changed a little bit because he’s still coaching at a very high level,” Cronk said. “He’s got a great relationship with his staff and players so obviously he’s umming and ahhing.”
The sight of Slater in conversation with Bellamy and other Storm coaches was described as an 'incredible visual' by fellow Fox commentator Yvonne Sampson. Cronk joked that he'd only believe Bellamy had retired when he saw it first hand.
“I’ve said for the past three years, I’d like to see Craig retire and enjoy the finer things in life but he doesn’t listen to me," Cronk said.
Storm outplayed by dominant South Sydney in NRL Magic Round
From the outset, Souths had the better of what was billed as Magic Round's marquee match and could thank Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell for both their early advantage and eventual margin of victory on Saturday night. South Sydney have knocked off reigning premiers Penrith, ladder-leading Brisbane and the Storm in the latest wins of their five-game streak to send a warning shot to the premiership and put a lukewarm start to the season behind them once-and-for-all.
"It's a great start but that's all it is," Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou said. "It's a start to the season we wanted but there's a long, long way to go.
"If we keep having a defensive mindset, then we're a tough team to beat."
Encouragingly for Demetriou, the Rabbitohs are still below full strength and are only going to become more fearsome when forwards Keaon Koloamatangi, Shaq Mitchell and Siliva Havili return to fitness. Melbourne, meanwhile, could be about to lose a big man of their own - Nelson Asofa-Solomona appeared to aggravate his knee injury in a second-half tackle and jogged from the field late.
In his 200th NRL game, Souths fan favourite Alex Johnston crossed for a double, his first of a campaign that has so far been dominated by Campbell Graham and the Rabbitohs' right edge. But the night belonged to Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker, at least one of whom had a hand in the first three tries that opened up the Bunnies' lead and ultimately sealed the result.
"Our key players are playing well at the moment and that's what you want," Demetriou said.
The NRL's leading tryscorer Graham was not required close to the line, such was the dominance of Souths' left edge.
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