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Kearney returns to Storm as Bellamy's assistant

Stephen Kearney is set to return to the NRL coaching ranks next season as Craig Bellamy's assistant at Melbourne.

The former Warriors coach will link once more with the Storm outfit - he won a premiership with Melbourne in 1999, replacing Jason Ryles as Bellamy's right-hand man on a one-year deal.

Kearney's return to Melbourne – where he also cut his teeth as an assistant before landing his first head coaching role with Parramatta – will include being a mentor for current development coaches Aaron Bellamy and Ryan Hinchcliffe.

His appointment comes as the club and Bellamy continue to weigh up his future beyond next season.

Bellamy and Melbourne chairman Matt Tripp have had informal discussions around the master coach extending his tenure for another 12 months as Brisbane circles with a lucrative offer to make him their coaching director from 2022.

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The Storm are also willing to explore a similar role to keep Bellamy at the club, while CEO Dave Donaghy is also off contract and being courted by the Broncos.

It is understood that in recent weeks Bellamy has indicated a desire to move closer to Queensland-base family to Storm officials.

The Storm are also exploring a similar coaches director role but haven't ruled out Bellamy being able to do so while being based in Queensland.

On Friday night, the Storm released a statement on Bellamy's behalf.

"I'm contracted to Melbourne Storm as head coach for 2021 and am committed to that role," Bellamy said.

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"I've been having discussions about my future but have stopped those for now and will make a decision once the 2020 finals are over."

Kearney's linking with Melbourne does not necessarily put him in line to succeed Bellamy whenever his time as Storm head coach does wrap up.

Ryles remains highly rated and is regarded as an NRL-coach in waiting.

He will join Eddie Jones's England Rugby set-up from November, with influential figures at the Storm and throughout the NRL viewing the move as his last apprenticeship before a head coaching role.

Elsewhere, Dragons interim coach Dean Young has been confirmed as Todd Payten's assistant at North Queensland on a three-year deal.

The Cowboys announced Young's appointment on Friday with the 36-year-old, who has also been an assistant for Tonga and the Indigenous All Stars, attracting high praise from director of football Peter Parr.

"Along with our incoming head coach Todd Payten, Dean’s appointment gives the club a fresh start and some clean air," Parr said.

"Dean had a long and successful career as a player, he won a premiership and played both Origin and International football and in our discussions with him he’s been impressive in the clarity he’s spoken with as well as what he believes he can bring to the Cowboys.

"Just as importantly, Todd is a believer in Dean’s coaching ability and we’re extremely excited to have two of the best young coaches in the game at our club.'