After turning down Brisbane and Cronulla to remain with Melbourne for a further five years, Craig Bellamy will advise Storm officials before the start of next season whether he will continue as head coach in 2023.
Bellamy, who had been agonising over his future since last year’s grand final defeat of Penrith, has committed to the Storm until 2026 but will make an annual call on whether he wants to remain in charge or move into a part-time director of coaching and commercial role.
The Broncos and Sharks offered him a similar position but Bellamy isn’t ready to step away from coaching just yet and he refused to rule out a quarter of a century at the helm of the Storm.
However, he also has the option to move to the Gold Coast and take up a reduced role after giving Melbourne chairman Matthew Tripp and the board 12-months' notice so they can appoint a successor.
Flexibility key for Bellamy staying on with Storm
"That was one of the attractive parts of it," Bellamy said. "I am obviously going to be head coach again next year, but I think I am getting closer to that part-time role and the flexibility is good.
"If any time during the contract, at the end of the season in those five years, if I want to pull the pin I can.
"The decision took a long time for varying reasons but having that flexibility is something I am really happy with, depending on what happens in footy and in my private life as well."
Bellamy insisted he seriously considered the approaches from Brisbane and Cronulla and only settled on a decision last weekend.
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The Sharks have recruited Melbourne stars Dale Finucane and Nicho Hynes to play under incoming coach Craig Fitzgibbon, and Bellamy is understood to have been impressed by his dealings with Cronulla CEO Dino Mezzatesta.
However, it is likely to take two-to-three years to turn around the fortunes of the Sharks or Broncos whereas the Storm are again on track for premiership glory.
"The other two clubs were great, I was really impressed with both," Bellamy said.
"The quality of people I was talking to at the Broncos, and also at the Sharks, was outstanding and they were very, very impressive with how they presented things.
"Both of them were attractive, certainly with the conditions of the contract and the money side of it. Both of those were part-time, there wasn’t really that head coaching role.
"In the end when I decided to stay with Melbourne, the main reason to go on as head coach was because it is so late in the season and it would have been hard for the Storm.
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"Having said that, I know I still have the passion and the drive to coach for at least another year."
Bellamy has coached the Storm in 490 premiership games since being appointed in 2003 and with six rounds remaining of this year’s competition, he could bring up the 500-match milestone in the grand final or the opening round of 2022 season.
If it does not occur until next season, Bellamy will know before then whether he is in his last year of coaching.
Former Melbourne assistant Jason Ryles, who will join Sydney Roosters next season as Fitzgibbon’s replacement on Trent Robinson’s staff, is a likely candidate for the job, along with Stephen Kearney, Marc Brentnall and Bellamy’s son Aaron, who all work under Bellamy.
Regardless of how long he remains as coach, Bellamy wants the club to tie down star fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen and hooker Brandon Smith on long-term deals after losing Finucane and Hynes to Cronulla and winger Josh Addo-Carr to the Bulldogs.
"We would obviously like to think Paps will stay with us. He has had other things on his plate as well and getting himself right to play again has taken some time and taken longer than anyone thought," Bellamy said of Papenhuyzen, who returned last week after suffering a head knock two months ago.
Asked about Smith, who had requested a release at the end of the season, Bellamy believes he is now content in Melbourne.
"Hopefully, we can have a sit down with Brandon and see where he is at," Bellamy said.
"Hopefully, we can keep him on board. He is a really important part of our organisation. He is a great guy to have around off the field, as well as all the other guys enjoying playing with him."
Having made his decision to continue coaching, Bellamy said he would now focus on helping the Storm players to "achieve their dreams".
"I know in the back of my mind that we have got a good footy team here but even more than that we have got a good group of people here, as players and staff as well," he said.
"That’s more important to me than how much talent we have in our footy team. If you have got good people, you know that they care about the organisation and have a [level of] pride in what they do so you are a good chance of having a good footy team if you have those ingredients.
"What they deserve is … for us as coaches and staff at the club to help guide them in the right direction, encourage when it is time to encourage and perhaps give them a little kick when they need that as well."