Brisbane speedster Xavier Coates admits the appeal of being coached by Craig Bellamy looms large as he appears set to join the Red Hill exodus to link with Melbourne.
The Storm and Broncos declined to comment publicly on Coates's future on Wednesday after reports emerged he would commit to a two-year deal with the premiers.
Melbourne officials denied any agreement had been signed with the 20-year-old rising star, while Coates's manager Nash Dawson told NRL.com that his client hasn't "signed or agreed anywhere, or even made a decision yet".
Brisbane players however were overheard at Wednesday's training session joking with Coates about a prospective move to Melbourne after months of conjecture over his future.
Coates has ranked as one of the most in-demand players in the NRL with the Storm weighing in with a two- or three-year offer for his services last month, Brisbane beefing up their own extension and the Titans also offering a three-year deal, as reported by NRL.com six weeks ago.
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Bellamy is still yet to decide his own future beyond this season, with another stint as Storm coach or coaching director in 2022 the most likely scenario, followed by a step back from the NRL altogether.
The veteran coach's decision has long played a role in Coates's own career call, though he was non-committal when pressed on his future on Wednesday.
"Obviously Melbourne appeals to me but there are 15 other clubs and they have appeal as well," Coates said.
"It feels good to be wanted by clubs. I am young and still finding my feet, I just want to play consistent footy for the Broncos.
"I am here for this year, I have the mentors here to help me learn, so each day I come to training with an open mindset."
When asked if he would be at the Broncos next year, Coates laughed then replied: "I am just focused on playing good footy."
Coates wasn’t named specifically by new Brisbane CEO Dave Donaghy earlier this week when he spoke of targets for "vultures" that "swoop in and throw ridiculous amounts of money and steal your best talent," but he is their latest youngster to be eyed off by NRL rivals as the Broncos continue to be rebuilt.
NRL.com understands that the money on offer from Melbourne, Donaghy's former club, to Coates is more or less the same as other offers in front of him.
The Broncos have come under fire in recent times following the losses of David Fifita (Titans), Reece Walsh (Warriors) and Tom Dearden (Cowboys), though retention priority Kotoni Staggs is expected to re-sign with the club in coming weeks.
Speaking on SEN Radio on Wednesday morning, Storm football manager Frank Ponissi confirmed the club's interest and said Coates is "actually a player we had on our young scholarship and Academy way back a few years ago".
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"We had him up at our Brisbane Easts Academy, he’s from the Gold Coast region and he was picked up by the Broncos from under our noses."
Coates started the year living in a house with Andrew McCullough and Dearden.
McCullough left for St George Illawarra in the pre-season while Dearden signed to join the Cowboys in 2022 a fortnight ago.
"It was tough, seeing Macca leave, he played a big part with me at the club, he helped me out in my first year of footy," he said.
"He was the first person to come to me when I started at the club and he made a good bond with me and Tommy.
"We stayed at Macca's place for a while and he helped us out. It's disheartening to see Tom go to the Cowboys but that's football.
"It's a bit difficult. I'm only new and 20 years and learning my craft. I'm leaving it to my manager. My main goal is to play consistent football and playing for the Broncos this year.
"Tom knows within himself what decision was right for him, he is living his life and I'm living mine."
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