26/02/2024

Craig Bellamy at Storm training. Photo: melbournestorm.com.au

Despite a changing of the guard, Craig Bellamy has lead the Storm to the finals 17 times since he has been in charge, but how has he done it?

Throughout the majority of his 18 year tenure as Melbourne Storm coach, Craig Bellamy has coached some of the greatest players to play the game, with the likes of Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Greg Inglis all pulling on a Storm jersey.

This season is Bellamy’s first without any of his fab four after Cameron Smith retired last year, but his team hasn’t missed a beat, winning the minor premiership and equalling the NRL record for the most consecutive wins in a season, all while only playing five games at home over two seasons.

However, this wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who was playing close attention to the Storm’s squad overhaul as they began to prepare for life post their big stars years in advance.

The Inner Sanctum looks at how Bellamy and the Storm have managed to stay relevant for so long.

It’s all about growth from within

Bellamy’s intent has been clear from the start, he has always looked to develop his own talent to execute his game style, and that was no different through 2017, 2018 and 2019 where Bellamy put together a majority of his current core of players.

With the core of his spine about to change drastically Bellamy went out hunting for young talent rather than established stars.

Ryan Papenhuyzen was released by the Wests Tigers after coming through their junior ranks, and was quickly snapped up by the Storm as Billy Slater’s heir apparent.

After playing two games for the Gold Coast Titans and the North Queensland Cowboys, Jahrome Hughes joined the Storm in 2017 but didn’t make regular appearances in first grade until 2019.

Although he started at fullback, he has since developed into one of the premier halfbacks in the league.

The current dummy-half duo of Brandon Smith and Harry Grant were recruited in 2017 and 2018 respectively, as Bellamy subtly planned for life after Cameron Smith.

With a couple of season as Cameron’s back up, Brandon has taken his game to another level in 2021, scoring 11 tries, setting up another eight and running for 2,302 metres.

While Grant, after spending a year at Wests Tigers has also had a breakout season after making his State of Origin debut last year.

While other core players such as Christian Welch, Justin Olam, Felise Kafusi, Neslon Asofa Solomona and Jesse and Kenny Bromwich have only ever played first grade for the Storm.

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End result, sustained success and wanted men

Bellamy has only missed the finals on one occasion since beginning his coaching tenure, in 2010 when the team was stripped of their points due to salary cap breaches.

Of those 17 years that the Storm have finished inside the top eight, 13 of those they have finished in the top four and 10 in the top two.

While they have only won three premierships in that time, they have continually put themselves in a position to contend.

This system has also now seen big name players become wanted men on the open market.

Exciting winger Josh Addo-Carr has been one of the most prolific try-scorers in the NRL over recent years and will head to the Canterbury Bulldogs next season in an attempt to increase their scoring and pull them off the bottom of the ladder.

Utility Nicho Hynes has had a breakout season after coming to the club on a train and trial contract in 2019. He has flourished under Bellamy’s tutelage and now has the confidence to go along with his playmaking ability for when he arrives at the Sharks.

Skipper Dale Finucane will also join the Sharks in 2022 and add invaluable leadership to their young squad.

The hunt continues

Despite their sustained success Bellamy continues to stick true to his methods of staying away from the big stars and developing his own talent.

Young winger Xavier Coates will join the Storm in 2022, and despite having five Origin appearances to his name, the 20-year-old still has a lot to learn and is expected to take his game to the next level under Bellamy.

Current Bulldogs fullback Nick Meaney and Knights prop Josh King will also join the Storm and look to take the next step under the tutelage of Bellamy.

A lasting legacy

After recently signing a five-year extension that could see him transition into an off-field role as soon as 2023, Bellamy will leave a lasting legacy of excellence at the Storm no matter the on-field results.

As the team prepares for a preliminary final showdown with the Penrith Panthers on Saturday night, win, lose or draw the story will be the envy of all professional sports clubs around the world.

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