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Bellamy v Belichick: Winning titles without your GOAT

Seal Media Group, Australia

Of all the NRL playoff questions, this is among the more intriguing.Especially given the ongoing, if almost eerie, symmetry existing between this pair of coaching Goliaths.Certainly for all his 19 seasons rising to NRL greatness — claiming premierships, records, even his own ‘Deflategate’ controversies — Bellamy has, time and again, been compared to his New England Patriots counterpart.Sure, the Storm boss is also now closing in on the Little Master.Same deal a Balmain boy dubbed ‘Latchem’, and 1950s Sydney detective Jack Rayner.But more on them shortly.First, Bellamy-Belichick. A pair of ageing masterminds who, most obviously, have risen to fame in tandem with a superstar considered the GOAT.For Belichick, it was the Patriots $250 million quarterback Tom Brady.While at Melbourne, Bellamy’s fortunes have risen alongside Immortal-in-waiting, Cameron Smith.Which isn’t to say the similarities between these greatest of footballing minds don’t run much deeper. They do.With both men, for example, famed for building teams rather than buying them.Refusing to fall in love with one player, Belichick has spent the past 20 years continually finding himself a handful of stars — led by Brady — who he then surrounds with cast-off free agents, pitching each into a pivotal role.From there, the coach who has collected Super Bowl rings like so many others do their walking papers then instils in every player a culture dubbed ‘The Patriot Way’.Sound familiar?Apart from outing himself, more than once, as a study of Belichick, Bellamy has also spoke of his particular interest in the American’s decision to continually invite young coaches in for work experience and then, when one of his senior staff moves on, promote from within this collection of minds.A trait the Storm boss has adopted himself with the likes of Jason Ryles, Ryan Hoffman, Matt King and Brett White.Of course, you could also argue the pair have both endured their share of controversy while pursuing success — think Deflategate and the NRL salary cap saga — while also continually staying ahead of the codes they dominate.Indeed, after years of apparently wrestling their way to titles, the Storm has this year adapted to the code’s new, fast-flowing regulations as well as any of the 16 NRL teams.A truth proved by the club having scored more points than any other else.But the greatest question?What these men now do without their GOATS?Recently, and somewhat incredibly, Belichick has had his greatness questioned after Brady, who left the Patriots last year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, famously went and collected himself a seventh Super Bowl ring — while the coach got nothing.Certainly, it sent Twitter into meltdown. With many questioning if Brady had, in fact, made Belichick great?Closer to home, Bellamy is also looking to equal Belichick’s six titles — albeit with two stripped for salary cap cheating — without his megastar No. 9 who, just like Brady, went from being questioned about his physique early to arguably the greatest ever. So can Bellyache do what his Patriots mate couldn’t?Of his five titles at Storm, all have included Smith.Yet when the hooker was outed from that 2008 GF against Manly, Storm were pumped 40-blot.And, yes, the pair have lost some together, too. Although Bellamy has also now this year coached Storm to a minor premiership without Smith. Should Bellamy go all the way to this year’s title, he will also become the most successful coach in NRL playoff history.That, and the fourth greatest ever.Currently, the list is headed by famed Balmain coach Norm ‘Latchem’ Robinson, who took his Tigers to three titles in the 1940s while maintaining an 80 per cent success rate.Next up is Rayner, who captain-coached the Bunnies to five premierships and a 78 per cent finals success rate, while South Sydney’s Immortal Clive Churchill is third, with 69 per cent. Elsewhere, Bellamy can also become the first coach to reach a staggering 10 grand finals.A feat that would see him beat great arch rival Wayne Bennett.Yet most intriguingly, he could also finally claim one over Belichick — by earning title success without his own version of the GOAT.The must-watch vision which Bellamy would hateThere’s a six-minute clip on YouTube that tells you everything you need to know about the Melbourne Storm culture.Or, at the least, the brilliant mind of its famed coach.It’s very unlikely Craig Bellamy’s viewed the video given that technology is not his strong suit.He doesn’t use email and admitted recently he’s flat out trying to record a video on his phone. If you haven’t seen it, search YouTube for ‘Ride the last six minutes of the NRL Grand Final with Craig Bellamy,’ which has been viewed more than 100,000 times.A camera is fixed squarely on the great man during the dying stages of last year’s decider.He swears, paces, kicks the odd chair, yells, barracks and pleads as Penrith come desperately close to snatching the title from Melbourne’s grasp.Already embarrassed by the way he carries on in the box, Bellamy would hate the fact the vision exists.Although, it’s compelling viewing as Bellamy — who once said his fire comes from his mother’s side — prowls around the box like a caged lion.The most remarkable, and telling, reaction from Bellamy came just after the final play, when the Storm extinguished the Panthers’ last-ditch attempt to score a length-of-the-field try after the siren which would have sent the grand final into golden point.He lets out a yell of emotion and claps his hands together once, but then makes a beeline for his coach’s notebook and darts quickly out of the box like he’s ready to deliver a halftime spray.He’s just won a premiership, yet while his assistants jump on top of each other in celebration, he’s still fuming about the way Penrith had very nearly stolen it.Bellamy’s demeanour had changed to relief and joy by the time he reached his players on the field, but that vision gives a telling insight into the Storm culture and why it has been a competition benchmark for so long.In the AFL, Bellamy’s closest counterpart had been four-time premiership coach Alastair Clarkson, who finished up at Hawthorn last month.In a similar manner, Clarkson once exploded in anger at a player error with three minutes left in the 2014 grand final.His Hawthorn side was 10 goals up at the time.It’s why coaches like Bellamy and Clarkson are the best, and successful. There’s a strive for perfection and a fire that can never be extinguished.Bellamy is said to have been furious after his side dropped a game against Parramatta a fortnight ago.A win would have given Storm the outright record for the longest winning streak in 114 years of rugby league.It was the Storm’s first loss in five months and Bellamy lashed the defeat as “embarrassing.”That was not hyperbole, he was genuinely fuming.Storm great and foundation player Robbie Kearns said the club’s unrelenting nature and culture could be boiled down to four key values — hard work, respect, humility and selfless acts.“There’s no arrogance in the Melbourne Storm, which has been a big reason for their success,” Kearns said.“They’ve had some of the best players of all time, but no one’s better than anyone else.“Some obviously play a bit better than others, but when they walk off that field there’s no one bigger and better than others.“The three greatest players the club has ever had (Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk) aren’t there anymore and they’re still getting it done.“Craig’s got a lot to answer for there.“He breeds it into those players and when those players become senior players, they breed it into the younger players, so it’s a great circle of values that keep happening because of Craig Bellamy.”One of the questions Kearns is constantly asked is why so many players come to the Storm and realise their potential after struggling at other clubs.From the current crop, the likes of Ryan Papenhuyzen, Josh Addo-Carr, Jahrome Hughes, Brandon Smith, Felise Kaufusi, Dale Finucane, Reimis Smith, George Jennings and Nicho Hynes have all come from elsewhere and thrived at Melbourne.“I put it down to Craig, who simplifies football for players,” Kearns explained.“I know for a fact some players have come down here and they’ve been a bit frazzled and Craig just says ‘mate, I want you concentrating on two things — this in defence and this in attack.’“I used to do a little bit of work with the front-rowers and they would say ‘back at my old club I had about six or seven things I had to concentrate on every game.’“Craig just wants you to perfect your game and not do anything you’re not capable of doing.”Bellamy is a creature of habit who — like the rest of the Storm players and coaches — has had to adapt to living out of a suitcase for the past two seasons.Normally, Bellamy would still be starting his days like always does, in the AAMI Park gym at 5am while his players would still be sound asleep.He is there six days a week, and on the seventh day he skips the weight room and instead opts for a two-hour beach walk.“I’m putting $1000 on it that it would still be his routine to this day, even up in Queensland now,” Kearns said.“Without a doubt he’d be training every day and he’d have one day off, and on that day he’d be doing a beach walk.“Put your life on it.”

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