Storm 'fan' re-signs as coach
Storm chief executive Ron Gauci and coach Craig Bellamy speak to the media on Monday. Photo: Getty Images
CRAIG Bellamy says his bond with the players and the team that he has helped build - and many credit for holding together during its darkest days - was the reason for re-signing with the Melbourne Storm until at least the end of 2016.
After months of speculation as to his future - his current contract would have ended with this season - Bellamy on Monday fronted a press conference with Storm chief executive Ron Gauci to confirm he had turned down at least two other NRL clubs to stay put.
Bellamy has often spoken about the fondness he feels towards his players, with the likes of Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk having been at the club as long as he has. The players say Bellamy has been a mentor to each generation of players that has emerged during his decade in charge.
The premiership-winning coach was heavily linked with a move to St George Illawarra in 2014, but said he made the decision to re-sign with the Storm on Sunday night.
''It obviously took a little bit of time to work things out but the main reason is I feel like a bit of a fan I suppose,'' he said.
''This is my club, the emotional attachment is very strong especially to the players. There's a fair few of the players who have been here a fair while - six, eight, 10 years - and I really enjoy working with the group of players we've got here.
''They're really important to me not only as a coach but as a person. At the end of the day I probably found that attachment too hard to break to be honest.''
Bellamy has previously told Fairfax Media that his next contract could be his last as he could not see himself as a career coach, preferring to possibly move into a consultancy role in the future.
However, Bellamy, who started his first-grade coaching career at the Storm in 2003, said he still had the desire to maintain the necessary intensity for the next four years.
''I'm still enjoying what I'm doing. I know a lot of people thought it would be a bigger challenge for me to go [because] I've achieved basically all I can here. But I don't see that at all.
''If you're a head coach of any elite sports team in Australia, it's a challenge every day. … I suppose we've been energised by what's happened the last two years and I still want to make sure that this team is really competitive and hopefully I can play my part in that.''
Bellamy, who led the club through the salary cap cheating scandal when it was stripped of the 2007 and 2009 premierships, said the contract situation had started to become a distraction so he had decided to make the decision before the team travelled to London.
Gauci said Bellamy's influence on rugby league was seen beyond the Storm. His decision to re-sign would be a boost to owner News Ltd's hopes of selling the club.
''We're obviously very excited about it … Craig means so much to not only this club but this town and the game for us in Victoria, so we tried to do our level best to keep Craig but respecting the fact that it was right for him to go through the process he went through.''
The Storm on Monday flew out for their world club challenge clash against Leeds later this month.