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Craig Bellamy will coach the Storm for a 22nd season, informing the club he cannot yet retire from the game he loves.
“I’ve done a 180-degree turnaround,” he said after a month of soul-searching. “Things have got a bit testy over the past few weeks but I finally decided to coach on for another season in Melbourne.
“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.”
The 63-year-old, who told the club of his decision late on Sunday, said the bond with his players was hard to break.
“The relationship with the players is important to me. I enjoy that part of it,” he said. “The players have been really good to coach this year.”
The Storm are fifth on the ladder but have a relatively young pack of forwards, having lost half their starting six to rival clubs at the end of 2022.
Craig Bellamy will continue in the coaches’ box for another year.Credit: Getty Images
Next year will be the first time Bellamy has retained all the players he wants, after two decades of losing top stars to rivals. Almost all those players who left came to Melbourne as 18 years olds, and many became internationals.
With the Storm membership of more than 40,000 the highest in the NRL, Bellamy has built a club based on pride, pragmatism and parochialism in an AFL city.
He informed chairman Matt Tripp and football manager Frank Ponissi of his decision on Sunday evening and told the Storm players when they arrived at training on Monday.
The Bellamy-Ponissi partnership is one of the most successful and enduring in the NRL.
“Next year will be my 16th season with Craig,” Ponissi said. “I am absolutely delighted he is going again.
“Last November, while we were in Glasgow visiting Ange Postecoglou at Celtic, Craig told me in confidence 2023 would be his last season. He was adamant. Whilst I fully respected his decision, I couldn’t understand it because he was coaching as well and as effectively as he ever has while I have been with him. It’s tremendous for the club that he has changed his mind.”
Bellamy’s 2022 to 2026 contract allows him to inform the club by round one whether he will continue as head coach the following year or move to the position of coaching director.
Tripp demonstrated great patience by allowing his coach time to make a decision and was rewarded with the phone call he wanted on Sunday night.
“This is the news I’m sure everyone connected with Storm – our players and staff, our partners, and our members and fans – wanted to hear,” Tripp said.
“His passion and desire to do the job hasn’t wavered and he is now bringing through an exciting young team here at Storm.”
“Last week’s game showed Craig is up for whatever challenge is ahead and he’s clearly enjoying leading this new wave of players.”
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