Storm coach Craig Bellamy has hinted he might retire at the end of the season ... so it’s time for the Brisbane Broncos to pounce. Picture Darrian Traynor/Getty
Storm coach Craig Bellamy has hinted he might retire at the end of the season ... so it’s time for the Brisbane Broncos to pounce. Picture Darrian Traynor/Getty

Who should replace Wayne Bennett ... and when

BRISBANE should break the bank and pay $2 million to poach Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy to become Wayne Bennett's successor at the Broncos.

As Bennett moves deeper into what could be his penultimate season of coaching after 40 years at the top level, Broncos hierarchy need to get serious about a succession plan and there is only one name they should consider.

That name is Craig Bellamy.

Friday night's Round 7 clash between the Broncos and Storm is more than a Suncorp Stadium blockbuster. It is a club-style State of Origin battle that crystallises the ambitions of two clubs inextricably linked by the greatness of Bennett and Bellamy, the two coaches who once shared a winning bond at the Broncos.

It is one of the game's great mysteries that Bellamy has never coached the Broncos ... for it was always Bennett's hope, and plan, to see his former assistant coach step into his throne at Red Hill.

When the Storm were born in 1998, Bennett's blueprint was shattered. Melbourne's founder, former Broncos boss John Ribot, deliberately built their bedrock on Brisbane's DNA. He made no attempt to hide Melbourne's desire to be like the Broncos.

The careers of Broncos coach Wayne Bennett and Craig Bellamy are inextricably linked. Picture: Glenn Hunt/AAP
The careers of Broncos coach Wayne Bennett and Craig Bellamy are inextricably linked. Picture: Glenn Hunt/AAP

They are no longer a southern imitation of the Broncos. They are better than them. Since 2006, when Brisbane upset the Storm 15-8 in the NRL decider, Melbourne have qualified for seven grand finals in 11 years - all on Bellamy's watch.

By contrast, the Broncos have nothing to show in the trophy cabinet since that epic win in 2006. Queensland's flagship sporting club is mired in the longest premiership drought in its history.

It is time for the Broncos to learn lessons from the Storm.

There is no better way to do it than by going back to the future and headhunting the man who has turned a Melbourne outpost into the most ruthless machine in the NRL.

Big clubs need big coaches and the Broncos must heed lessons from their last attempt to replace Bennett in 2008, appointing an unproven rookie in Ivan Henjak, who combusted trying to handle life in the Red Hill furnace.

With Paul Green signing a new deal with the Cowboys on Monday, Bellamy - off-contract at season's end - is the most attractive coaching option on the open market.

Now the Broncos must strike.

Brisbane chief executive Paul White should pick up the phone today, call Bellamy and ask him to succeed Bennett at the Broncos.

Craig Bellamy was less than impressed. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty
Craig Bellamy was less than impressed. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty

Bellamy being a free agent is akin to Miss Argentina being up for grabs.

Surely someone has to get excited and have a crack. Bellamy is on an estimated $1 million annually at Melbourne.

The Broncos should double his salary. Granted, it would take an almighty effort to prise Bellamy from Melbourne, but money can be a powerful and decisive motivator.

If Bellamy were a stock, he would be the ultimate blue-chip investment.

A fortnight ago Bellamy hinted he may retire at season's end ... but he has said that twice before.

The reality is Bellamy, who will turn 59 in October but has the zest and fitness of a man a decade younger, has too much passion to walk away from rugby league.

Critically, Bellamy intimated that if he doesn't retire, he would be open to a mentoring or consultancy role.

That should be the only invitation the Broncos need.

Bennett is off contract next year. He will be 70 in 2020.

The Broncos should hire Bellamy to reunite with Bennett as co-coaches next year before taking over from Wayne ... just as the master coach had always intended.