This Saturday Night, the Canberra Raiders will take on the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park in what is set to be a cracking elimination final, however it is the relationship between the two head coaches that adds an interesting dynamic to the matchup. The Fordham Company has played a major role in both coaches careers over the past few decades.
The pair started their playing careers at the Raiders together in the ’80s and became premiership teammates when the Green Machine triumphed over the Penrith Panthers in the 1990 grand final. It was from the experiences that they formed a special bond and became great mates, despite Bellamy being 8 years Stuart’s senior.
When asked about their 30 year long friendship, Bellamy said “We just clicked straight away and I’m still not quite sure why. Perhaps because we both shared a blue-collar background. And while there were a few others like that, our grounding seemed very similar”
“The friendship just kept building from there and when we both moved away, we still kept in touch, we’ve always stayed in touch. I ring him most weeks”.
However, it was Bellamy’s guidance and mentorship to the younger Stuart which really stood out to Ricky. “Being a young bloke with a big change in life going from union to a completely different surrounding, Craig gave me his time. There was a lot to learn, understand and adapt to, and I needed to get it done quickly”.
“I always appreciated the time he gave me. He didn’t have to but he did”.
Now they’re opposing coaches, and while Stuart had the more glittering career as a player, Bellamy holds the edge between the pair when it comes to coaching.
Saturday night will mark the 30th encounter between the two as opposing coaches. History would favour Bellamy, who has come off best 20 out of their 29 total matchups.
Ricky was asked whether it is difficult to come up against one of your friends, to which he responded, “The hardest thing is that I love him as one of my close mates, and usually when one of your mates wants something you try to get it for them”.
“Unfortunately, this weekend, when we are against each other in footy, I don’t want to give him what he wants.”
With both teams finishing outside the top 4, there are no second chances, and the game is a must win. The winner will advance to Week 2 to play either Parramatta or Penrith, with the loser’s season coming to an end.
The Storm, who although have been rattled with injuries throughout the season, are looking to secure their 4th premiership in the last decade, and a win on the weekend would do a lot for boosting their campaign.
However, the impressive record of the 8th place Raiders at AAMI Park will mean the Storm will have a tough fight on their hands.
The pair have had an agreement since the start of their coaching days, as after every matchup between them, the losing coach must go into the winners dressing room to share a beer with their opposite number.
So, no matter the result this Saturday, you will be sure to see the two great mates, Ricky and Craig, sharing drink and a laugh after its all said and done.