OPINION

Is Craig Bellamy the greatest NRL coach of all time?

BIG IMPACT: Laurie Daley says that Craig Bellamy is the chief reason why the Storm is such a heavyweight in the NRL. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
BIG IMPACT: Laurie Daley says that Craig Bellamy is the chief reason why the Storm is such a heavyweight in the NRL. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Unless it's Don Bradman, it's almost impossible to quantify who is "the greatest" when it comes to sport.

There are just too many variables when you are comparing eras, the strength of opponents and different technology and advances along the way.

So, where Craig Bellamy sits among rugby league coaches at the end of his career will, like everything else, be a matter of opinion.

What can't be argued is he'll at the very least be on the top table alongside the likes of Jack Gibson and Wayne Bennett.

It's why his decision this week to reject offers from a couple of rival clubs to remain with Melbourne for the next five years is such a huge coup for the Storm.

His influence on that club has been massive.

It would have been a great shame for him to leave and, in many respects, felt strange to actually see him at another club.

When Greg Inglis left the Storm all those years ago to join Souths, there were plenty of people who questioned whether Melbourne would be the same team again.

When Cooper Cronk left, those same questions were raised and the same with Billy Slater.

With Cameron Smith the only one of the big four left, they still dominated and won the competition last season but without him going into this year, people still doubted whether the club would remain the force it's been.

A remarkable 15 straight wins has emphatically answered that. And the one constant through all of that has been Craig Bellamy.

Who knows, he might be regarded as the greatest of all time when he finishes up but I reckon his ability to get the best out of his players and make sure they are up every week and ready to perform is second to none.

He just has great empathy with his players but also knows when to be extremely tough with them and if you look at his record, it's simply outstanding.

Without question, he is the chief reason why they are such a heavyweight in the competition and have been for such a long time. So, to now have him involved for another five years, even if it's not in a head coaching role, is fantastic news for the club.

However long he decides to be the main man, it means he'll now be heavily involved in the transition to a new coach whenever that may be. And, what an opportunity it will be for that person.

He could get the opportunity to work under Craig if he is not already and he'll obviously have passed on to him those traits that have made Craig such a success.

He gets to understand about the DNA and what it means to be a Melbourne Storm player. It's the ideal succession plan for any club.

Like anyone with a decision like this to make, I'm sure Craig would have tossed up whether he was staying on too long and whether his message was still getting through. Just like as a player, you don't want to end up going on one season too long and losing your energy and that drive to compete.

I think he probably keeps weighing up whether his passion and hunger is still there and that's what he'll do now each year over the next five years.

When you lose that, even just a little bit, it affects the way you coach and I'm sure that's why he now wants to go year by year because he'll know whether he wants to keep going or not.

I've got to say, knowing Craig really well as a man and as a former teammate, I'm not surprised about his coaching success. As a player, Craig was a hard worker who got the absolute best out of himself.

What you see as a coach, is what he was as a player. A highly competitive bugger, one of the fittest blokes you've ever played with, who always gave his all and never took a shortcut.

He wasn't a flashy, highly skillful player, but he could play backrow, five-eighth or centre and he'd do a great job for you. He was a player who could fill all positions and you could rely on him. A great team man who everyone really respected and there wasn't anyone who had a bad word to say about the bloke.

All of those fine traits he's taken with him into coaching. That hard, steely edge and competitiveness - it's exactly what you see in every Melbourne Storm player and the thing with him and his recruitment, he rarely gets it wrong with players he brings in.

He improves them as players and as men and puts them in a system that he has developed where there is no compromise when it comes to effort, commitment and pride in that purple jumper.

His is a remarkable story and I, for one, am really happy to see it continue at the Storm.

The games

TIGERS v WARRIORS

It's been a tumultuous week for the Warriors after such a challenging season and the Tigers have far more to play for. My tip: Tigers

BRONCOS v COWBOYS

Tough one to pick but I'm leaning towards Brisbane at home. My tip: Broncos

DRAGONS v RABBITOHS

Souths will just have too much attacking firepower for the decimated Dragons. My tip: Souths

KNIGHTS v RAIDERS

Both sides will be desperate but the Raiders' form of late has been encouraging. My tip: Raiders

STORM v PANTHERS

Hard to tip against Melbourne here, with the players Penrith have out. My tip: Storm

BULLDOGS v TITANS

Can't see the Dogs going with the Titans here. My tip: Titans

SHARKS v EAGLES

Manly are a premiership smokey. They'll win this one. My tip: Eagles