At the same time 1300 kilometres north, Craig Bellamy was beginning his role as an assistant coach for the legendary Wayne Bennett at the Brisbane Broncos.
It would only be five short years before the Bellamy/Melbourne partnership would begin.
Nobody, including the young coach, could have seen what the future held. But someone like Bellamy definitely knew that the possibilities were endless for a city with so much to achieve.
Yes the Storm had won a National Rugby League Premiership in 1999. But this young club was an afterthought in an AFL-mad town.
The Storm were a team of toilers, battlers and journeymen. Much like Bellamy.
Yesterday the premiership-winning coach signed on for another four years.
“I feel like a bit of a fan I suppose. This is my club,” Bellamy said at the press conference.
“The emotional attachment is very strong, especially with the players.
“I really enjoy working with the players here, they’re really important to me, not only as coach but as a person.
“I found that attachment too hard to break to be quite honest.”
Bellamy as a player didn’t have blinding speed like Billy Slater, leadership like Cameron Smith or Cooper Cronk‘s kicking game. But he had toughness and got every last drop of talent he had out of his body.
Its no secret Bellamy’s greatest trait as a coach is his ability to squeeze talent from a stone.
What Bellamy does not get credit for are the men Slater, Smith and Cronk have become. The competitiveness that drives these three comes from Bellamy.
The speed, leadership and kicking games were all there. But Bellamy gave them the edge that has polished them and made them three modern greats.
Can you argue that these players would have been as perfect as they are under a different coach at a different club?
Because of Bellamy’s hefty influence, the Storm now mean something to the people of Melbourne.
His team and his players have opened doors in Melbourne for the next generation.
Bellamy not only dragged this club into a new era, he watched it crumble as the salary cap scandal took away what he and others had created.
How many other clubs could have bounced back from this almighty saga the way Bellamy’s club did?
He is a ruthless tactician that demands perfection from his players.
More importantly though, he has been a father to his boys.
Published on theroar.com.au