How Craig Bellamy came within inches of joining Wests Tigers and changing the troubled joint venture forever – as former board member reveals why he believes the supercoach turned them down
- Veteran Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy could have joined rival NRL club
- Bellamy turned down the Wests Tigers in 2002, stunning then CEO Steve Noyce
- Later the same year, Bellamy replaced Mark Murray ahead of 2003 NRL season
- On Thursday night at AAMI Park, Bellamy will coach Melbourne in 500th game
- Never lost a round one match or finished season with less than 50% win record
He’s known as the genius behind the Melbourne Storm’s stellar run of success after joining the club in 2003, but Craig Bellamy almost went down a different path – with the Wests Tigers.
The supercoach, who will oversee his 500th career game in the NRL when his team host South Sydney on Thursday night at AAMI Park, was close to joining the joint venture outfit, only to decline with the deal almost done.
It left then Tigers CEO Steve Noyce stunned.
‘He (Bellamy) had done his apprenticeship by that time (with Brisbane under Wayne Bennett) and was hungry,’ Noyce recalled.
‘He was the best candidate for the job at the time… I wanted a yes and he gave me a no.’
Noyce added he was ‘gutted and dejected’ on missing out on Bellamy’s signature, which would have been a coup that completely changed the joint-venture club ahead of the 2003 season.
Former Tigers board member David Trodden still believes Bellamy wanted to protect his family from the hustle of Sydney at the time, with the opportunity to fly under the radar and quietly establish himself in AFL-mad Melbourne a more viable option in Bellamy’s eyes.
He is part of the Melbourne Storm furniture after joining the club in 2003, but Craig Bellamy almost went down a different path in the NRL – with the Wests Tigers
After missing out of Bellamy, the Tigers chased Tim Sheens (pictured) – and he famously landed them a premiership in 2005
Bellamy will coach his 500th career game in the NRL when Melbourne host South Sydney on Thursday night at AAMI Park
It proved to be a sliding door moment for the Tigers, with player ill-discipline at the time also reportedly a factor in Bellamy’s decision to seek opportunities elsewhere.
Halfback Craig Field and utility back Kevin McGuinness had recently been issued two-year drug bans and John Hopoate was handed a 12-week suspension after bizarrely inserting his fingers into the backside of players during matches.
The playing group at the time also wanted one-time South Sydney coach Paul Langmack to replace Terry Lamb.
Bellamy later admitted he didn’t want to accept the Tigers head role before having to then endure a player-coach feud.
Later in 2002, Bellamy signed with Melbourne, replacing Mark Murray.
Incredibly he is still in the hot seat two decades later.
Only three other coaches – Wayne Bennett (890), Tim Sheens (669) and Brian Smith (601) — have more games on their CV, according to the Daily Telegraph.
The man they call ‘Bellyache’ won NRL premierships in 2012, 2017 and 2020 – and watched on with frustration after earlier titles he snared in 2007 and 2009 were taken off Melbourne due to salary cap breaches.
Ultimately, Bellamy felt Tigers weren’t the right fit as he shaped his coaching career.
History shows Tim Sheens – who the club chased after missing out on the Storm supremo – guided the Tigers to grand final glory in 2005.
But could they have created a dynasty with Bellamy in charge?
Tigers fans, who generally have been starved of success after Balmain and Western Suburbs joined forces in 1999 – will never know the answer.
You get the feeling many don’t want to either.