Melbourne may lose coach Bellamy if NRL rumours prove true

THE drums have been beating for months that Craig Bellamy was considering taking over the reins at one of the game's most iconic clubs, the St George Illawarra Dragons, from 2014.

Because hearsay and rugby league go hand in hand, my initial reaction was this was just another furphy.

Understanding how devoted Bellamy is to the Storm and that every season presents him with another massive challenge, I simply could not imagine him leaving Melbourne.

But quotes from the coach over the weekend that "it is either the Storm or one other club" throw a completely different light on the situation. He is obviously in a bind, and that is sad.

It is sad because in his decade-long career at Melbourne Bellamy has taken the Storm from something akin to a laughing stock to an NRL powerhouse.

Salary-cap rorting aside, four grand final appearances for three premierships in that time is an exceptional achievement.

Apart from 2010 when the Storm played for no points because of a salary cap breach, in the 10-year reign of Bellamy they have never missed the finals.

What sets Bellamy aside from other NRL coaches is his ability to recruit unwanted players and transform them in to winners.

He has done it season after season, but in 2012 - another premiership year - he excelled in that department.

The likes of Ryan Hinchcliffe, Jaiman Lowe, Todd Lowrie, Bryan Norrie, Sisa Waqa and Jason Ryles were bargain buys who, in most cases, were on the scrap heap.

Not only could Bellamy see something others failed to detect, but he was able to push the right buttons.

But Bellamy - and no doubt the Melbourne Storm for decades to come - will be remembered for producing three of the greatest modern-day champions of our game.

In Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk - the holy trinity of rugby league - Bellamy has moulded a combination that is categorically without peer.

And while I hear what Bellamy is saying about the tough decision that lies ahead, it is because of these three champions that I find it difficult to comprehend him leaving Melbourne.

His bond with the trio is akin to family, and their commitment to him is without question.

At 54 years of age, Bellamy apparently feels the end is nigh, although his former mentor at the Broncos, Wayne Bennett, is still going strong at almost 10 years his senior.

Understandably then, a lucrative contract - rumoured to be $1.2million a year at the Dragons - is a carrot well worth considering.

The $64 question is, however, whether the NRL can afford to have Bellamy lost to Melbourne?

With rugby league having some semblance of at least a toe hold in the AFL-mad city, a series of barren seasons could be catastrophic, particularly so close to the salary-cap scandal and the PR disaster that resulted.

Irrespective of who was recruited as his replacement, losing Bellamy could well break the mould that made the Storm great.

And the Melbourne market is far too important to have that risked.

Topics:  craig bellamy melbourne storm nrl rugby league st george illawarra dragons

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