TWO days after Craig Bellamy insisted he would be retiring at the end of his current contract and 24 hours after confirming the appointment of his newest assistant, premiers Melbourne are again on the lookout for a coach.
Adam O’Brien, the Storm’s development coach, will replace departing Kevin Walters in 2014. As revealed during the week, Bellamy’s other offsider, David Kidwell, is also planning to leave at season’s end. Bellamy has three years left at the club and told Channel Nine on Thursday he would retire at the end of that period.
The club might have thought it had a solid succession plan in place but is now facing the prospect of starting from scratch.
Melbourne football manager Frank Ponissi – in Newcastle for Sunday’s clash with the Knights – declined to comment on Kidwell’s situation, saying it was up to the former New Zealand international to make an announcement on his future. But he said O’Brien’s appointment had been made weeks ago, although it was made public only late last week.
“Pretty much straight away, we appointed Kevvy’s replacement internally,” he said.
A large and competent staff has been a key feature of the Storm during their run of success over the past decade. Officials say that while a restructure taking place, it had no impact on the assistant coaching positions. But the departure of two assistant coaches at the same time will create some instability.
Bellamy told Nine: ”I have three years to go after this year and I don’t see myself going any longer than that. I just think it will be time for someone else to take over. I’d like to think I’ll still be involved in the game somehow, but certainly not as head coach.”
On the field, officials are confident centre Maurice Blair will make his return from a badly jarred neck at Hunter Stadium and is likely to replace Justin O’Neill.
Both sides named five-man benches. Melbourne are shooting for a seventh consecutive win over the Knights, who are desperately trying to stay in the finals race but have been successful in only one of their last four home games.
Filed for: SUNDAY AGE
MELBOURNE Storm officials say the departure of assistant coach Kevin Walters was not related to an administrative restructure at the club and he will definitely be replaced.
When coach Craig Bellamy was asked on Thursday about changes under the premiers’ new owners, he mentioned former international Walters as one staffer who would be departing.
But according to football manager Frank Ponissi, Bellamy was merely using Walters as an example of personnel changes occurring at the club and not implying there was any link.
“That suggestion is 100 per cent incorrect,” Ponissi tells Fairfax Media. “Kevvy left for personal reasons only.
“We are disappointed but totally understand his reasoning. And yes, he will be replaced.”
New Storm CEO Mark Evans revealed earlier in the week that some senior management positions would evaporate under a new structure that had five departments reporting to him.
When asked if he was concerned about the impact of these changes on football operations, Bellamy said: “Hopefully not too much.
“We’ve sort of been told by the owners there won’t be too many changes in the footy department. There’ll be some changes, personnel-wise. We already know Kevvy Walters is leaving.
“There might be a couple more changes personnel wise but hopefully the structure and what we’ve got in place will stay and hopefully we might even find a couple of little ways to improve it.
“We’re pretty sure that will be the case. It’s been a bit of a breath of fresh air having the new owners around . It’s obviously something different.
“As I said, they’ve been very, very supportive and hopefully it will stay that way.”
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD