HISTORY is full of odd couples, people of diametrically opposed personalities who somehow form a perfect union. In rugby league, Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy and skipper Cameron Smith have again showed they are just that as they lead the team into the NRL grand final against Canterbury on Sunday.
Bellamy is an intense, at times, brooding 52-year-old - his birthday is next Wednesday - who often communicates his messages on the training paddock and in meetings with expletive-laden yelling. But he is also a man who has a softer side, and the laid-back, fuss-free Smith, who shares a close bond with his coach, makes it his mission to bring that out for the rest of his team.
''I think I'm a bit of a foil for him,'' said Smith, who often makes jokes at Bellamy's expense at press conferences. ''He's pretty intense and he gets pretty angry a lot of the time and if the coach and the captain were like that the boys would be thinking, 'Ah geez, these blokes again'. I get away with a lot. The boys actually joke about it, but I stir him up a fair bit and take the piss out of him a fair bit. It's good for everyone, it's good for him to have a bit of a laugh and it's good for all the boys to see that he has that lighter side to him as well and not just the intense Craig Bellamy that they see most of the time … We're here to do a job and that's to win footy games but to make sure everyone is having a good time doing it as well.''
Smith said Bellamy's intense nature - although he has mellowed over the years and become more consultative with his senior players - was exactly what was needed to be a successful coach.
''If I wasn't there, I don't know what would be going on in some meetings. He'd be flying off the handle every day,'' Smith said. ''But you need someone like 'Bellyache' [Bellamy] as a coach, who's intense and puts a lot of time into your preparation and time into the opposition and understanding how to best prepare for each week. He gives us plenty of homework to look at and a lot of information to allow us to be the best footy side we can on the weekend.''
Bellamy said Smith's influence was undeniable but it had taken time for him to completely win him over.
''He's obviously been a huge part of our club for a long period of time,'' Bellamy said. ''We all sort of know him now and understand him. He was a little bit hard to put up with early in his career, and his lack of time management, I suppose, would be a nice way of saying it.
''He was always right on the edge of coming to meetings and training but that's the way he is. He's very laid-back and nothing really fusses him at all. He always seems to be very calm and composed, unlike myself at times, so I suppose we rub off on each other. Sometimes when we need to be excited it's me that takes over a bit, when we need to be a bit composed, it's Cameron.
''He's a wonderful leader. He's the captain of our club, he's the captain of his state and he's the captain of our country, so all those titles he's got just goes to show what a great leader he is.''
Smith agreed leadership did not come easily at first and he was made to wait for his chance, with Bellamy opting for a leadership group to take over after the retirement of Stephen Kearney.
''I think the biggest change I've had is as a leader early on I was really content with playing first grade and being involved in an NRL club,'' Smith said.
''But now I've got a job to do, to help the coach out around the place and to help manage the team, you sort of realise that being a captain is not just tossing a coin and running out in front of the team and having the 'c' next to your name.
''It's about making sure you're communicating with the players during the week and they're preparing good and they're in the right frame of mind with a game coming on the weekend, and talking to the coach and relaying messages. There's a lot of things going on behind the scenes that you don't think of when you first start playing.''
Smith said regardless of what happened in 2010 when the Storm was stripped of two premierships because of long-term salary cap cheating, he had never doubted the team would have another chance to win a premiership.