WIZ: Bellamy NRL’s master coach
Craig Bellamy wears a Gatorade shower following the NRL Grand Final between the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and Melbourne Storm at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012.(AAP Image/Ben Zonner)
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Any doubts that may have lingered over Craig Bellamy’s coaching ability were comprehensively tackled into touch via a stunning whole team display in yesterday afternoon’s grand final.
Going up against fellow coaching heavy weight Des Hasler in the Strom’s first decider since the salary cap scandal, Bellamy appeared tense before the game, however for every bit wound up Bellamy was his players were cool, calm and collected.
The Storm’s big players shone in the clutch situations as expected, however it was Bellamy’s spare parts players who laid the platform for the big three to perform.
Bellamy and his coaching staff’s ability to take fringe first graders and late bloomers and turn them into key components of a successful Strom machine has become a trademark of the franchise, and this victory is sweet reward for their rebuilding efforts since they were stripped of their 07 and 09 titles.
This is not to say the Bulldogs were disgraced last night though, far from it.
Whilst they probably suffered from a lack of big game experience in their halves at times, to defend their line for so long against players like Smith, Cronk and Slater is testament to the toughness Hasler has instilled in his charges.
Where most grand finals tend to blow apart in the later stages of the game, the fact that the Bulldogs were not only able to keep the scoreboard respectable but also keep the Strom scoreless in the second half was an incredible feat.
Both coaches can be seen demand huge respect from their players, and will most likely be part of many more finals matches. It is Bellamy though who is integral not just to the footballing side of his club, but the club itself.
Whilst there will always be whispers of cashed up CEOs throwing big money at the man, it is hard to see Bellamy ever leaving the Storm.
From the moment he walked his walked his charges onto AAMI park for the now famous press conference after the magnitude of salary cap penalties became clear, this has been the club that Craig built.
Gary 'Wiz' Freeman is one of the great halfbacks in New Zealand rugby league history. Now an outspoken and popular media personality, he joined The Roar in 2012 as an expert rugby league columnist, and continues in 2014.