COACH Craig Bellamy has revealed holding a meeting the potential new owners of the Melbourne Storm – but says the secret summit played no part in his decision to stay at the club.
Speaking to the Herald in the arrivals hall at Heathrow terminal three late last night, Australian time, Bellamy said a member of the cartel interested in buying the club from News Limited had met him to outline his plans.
Bellamy’s retention was seen as a key component of the ownership transfer – reportedly to a group of London-based New Zealanders –going ahead.
“I’ve met the guy heading up the syndicate – it sounds like he’s got some big plans,” Bellamy said.
“Having said that … whichever way it goes, that didn’t have any impact on my decision. Whatever happens, whether it goes ahead or not, I know my role and I’ve got to do it the best I can.
“I haven’t taken that into consideration too much. At the end of the day, I don’t think the deal’s done..
“That’s out of our hands. That’s between News Limited and whoever the new owners might be. .”
The Storm’s scientifically-planned preparation for the Friday week clash with Leeds at Headingley hit an immediate hurdle when the bus booked to pick them up from the airport didn’t show up.
Instead of being transferred to their Richmond hotel for a recovery session, players milled around the airport drinking coffee.
The premiers will go without at warm-up game, instead staging opposed sessions with London Academy and Halifax over the next week and a half.
Bellamy admitted at his re-signing media conference to having been distracted from coaching in recent weeks by negotiations over his future.
He explained last night: “A couple of things happened in the last seven or 10 days which made it a little bit distracting, I suppose. It was good to get it over and done with.
“I thought around Christmas time I’d have it all done before coming here but we were cutting it a bit fine, doing it an hour so before getting on the bus (to go to the airport for the WCC).”
Leeds have fitness doubts over prop Ryan Bailey (knee) and centre Brett Delaney (hamstring), while fullback Zac Hardaker (concussion) is likely to be rested from Friday’s clash with Salford.
The trio was hurt in Sunday’s shock 14-12 loss to Castleford.
“I don’t think the hamstring from Delaney will be less than a week,” said coach Brian McDermott. “I’m not sure what about Bailey’s knee, whether it’s just a little nip of a cartilage or it’s a strain.
“Hopefully Zac recovers from his collision, passes his cog sport (test) and is back the week after.”
Former Melbourne centre Jake Webster, who scored a try for Castleford at Wish Communications Stadium on Sunday, said it was difficult to see the NRL side losing.
“The conditions are going to be very slow, very physical,”said Webster. “As long as they come ready for that, I can’t really see them getting beaten.
“The experience of the Big Three (Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater) will get them through.”
Webster said turning the ball back inside and tiring the Rhinos’ big men would be a key for the visitors.
“The change of direction’s going to be a big thing – Rangi (Chase) took control of that,” he said.
“We were dropping players off non-stop and we seemed to be winning a lot of plays. Make them work, turn them inside out.
“It’s always tough coming over here. When I first came over here I found it tough with the conditions and the crowd is also going to be against them.
“And Leeds are a champion side, you know? They know how to turn it on in big games. It’s hard because the Storm are still in their trials and we’re a few weeks into our season.”
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD