So is this farewell, Craig?
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)
With less than a minute to go in the Grand Final, the Melbourne Storm were 10 points up. With the ball deep in their half, the Premiership was theirs and the supporters were celebrating.
But Craig Bellamy refused to believe it just yet: “Craig Bellamy can’t relax. Refuses to relax…refuses!”, was the amusing observation made by Phil Gould.
And now the club and its supporters can’t relax. St George Illawarra have launched a voracious assault on the southern capital in an attempt to lure the great man north.
Ever since Bellamy said he was a 50-50 chance of leaving his beloved Storm players, the club has realised the odds are stacked against them.
Reports have stated that they hope his love for the place and the bond forged by the salary cap drama will outweigh the money offered by the Dragons.
Money, however, shouldn’t be an issue. The News Ltd club should be able to match the offer – and the length of tenure, as confirmed by CEO Ron Gauci: “He has the role for as long as he wants as long as I’m in the chair.”
The suggestion that he may want to move closer to his family would appear a valid one and apparently was a consideration during negotiations for his previous contract.
But that can now be ignored, as the major factor at least, because he admitted to being interested in an earlier offer from the Warriors who are situated even further from his original home.
Although undisputedly one of the great coaches, he was also the coach of a side that rorted the salary cap, perfected the unpopular wrestle in tackles, and has been the nemesis of Sydney clubs for a long period.
Perhaps he is seeking acceptance and forgiveness in the heartland of the competition.
But the most likely reason for his departure, it seems, would be to seek a new challenge – like his former mentor Wayne Bennett – at the Dragons.
Immediately after the Grand Final it was impossible not to believe he would be at the Storm until the end of his coaching life.
The unadulterated hugs he gave to his second sons Billy Slater and Cameron Smith, and the players whose careers he had resurrected, Jaiman Lowe and Bryan Norrie, were a clear illustration of his feelings towards his men and the sense of redemption after the devastating salary cap affair.
He often said he couldn’t stomach coaching against his stars in Origin so it’s hard to imagine him doing the same throughout an NRL season.
Surely, he wouldn’t want to the see the club he built slowly fall away in his absence like the Broncos after Bennett’s departure.
The club’s three superstars have decided to call Melbourne home but without Bellamy’s unique ability to instil discipline while also conveying affection, to inspire and retain young talent, and to transform rejects into top rung contributors, the team’s fortunes will surely suffer.
For Storm supporters, it’s difficult to admit that his Grand Final hugs may have been farewell ones.