League: Storm happy Bellamy stays; Broncos turn to Henjak

The Melbourne Storm are rejoicing and the Brisbane Broncos have bitten their lip and selected a new coach after Craig Bellamy rejected the Queenslanders and opted for a new, five-year contract with the Storm.

Shortly after Bellamy's announcement, the Broncos said current assistant coach Ivan Henjak would take over after Wayne Bennett steps down at the end of this season - a surprise as even Bellamy's own players expected their coach to move back to his native Queensland, where his son and daughter live.

Bellamy's five-year contract is worth A$2.5 million - a lucrative deal but many reports suggest that, as well as the money, it was Bellamy's view that his players wanted him to continue that swung matters.

Bellamy has helped to turn the comparatively new NRL club into an Australian league leader since he arrived in 2003. Writing in Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper, Bellamy said: "When I was on the verge of making a decision on my future, I called together the leadership group at Melbourne, as well as a few other senior players, to gauge their opinion on something.

"I wanted to know whether they thought, if I stayed at the Storm, would I be stifling their progress? I asked them whether they still wanted me as a coach or if they wanted something new.

A different challenge. A new coach perhaps?

"When they said they wanted me to stay, it made the decision to remain in Melbourne and not return to Brisbane a little bit easier to make.

"I feel extremely close to the players we have down here. I have watched the likes of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Ryan Hoffman, Billy Slater and Dallas Johnson evolve from boys to men.

"They have been with me since they were 18- and 19-year-olds.

"The Storm have shown enormous faith in me with a five-year deal. I never asked for that. But it was offered and I accepted.

"It has given me a fair stake in the club and a fair say in what the future holds for it.

"Five years makes you feel an even bigger part of the place."

Storm skipper Cam Smith described Bellamy's decision as a "relief for all the boys in the team".

"You try not to let it unsettle you too much around football, but it was always in the back of our minds," Smith said. "We regard him as the No. 1 coach in the game and it would have been pretty disappointing if he had left."

An elated Henjak removed himself from the shadow of icon Wayne Bennett after being appointed to replace the Brisbane Broncos' only coach in their 21-year rugby league history.

The former Canberra halfback will make his coaching debut at the age of 46. "There's no shame in being second, third or even fourth choice to coach a club like the Broncos," said Henjak, his appointment confirmed at an early morning press conference in the club's board room tyesterday.

"The is the No.1 coaching job in the National Rugby League. I'm truly honoured to have been offered my chance by such a great club."

Henjak will take over the reins next season at Brisbane when Bennett heads to St George Illawarra.

"I haven't coached in the NRL but I can assure you I'll do all I can to uphold the legacies that Wayne and the past greats who've come through the club have left," Henjak said.

But Henjak, who has been Bennett's assistant since 2006, has no intention of trying to fill Bennett's coaching boots.

"I've been fortunate to have worked with a number of wonderful coaches and hopefully I've learned a little from each of them," Henjak said. "I'm not Wayne Bennett and I'll never be Wayne Bennett, he's a coaching icon.

"I have a different personality to Wayne and I'm not going to try and be like Wayne."

- Herald on Sunday

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