Melbourne Storm super-coach Craig Bellamy has spoken of his admiration for the All Blacks' coaching set-up, revealing how some reading advice from Wayne Smith helped turn around the fortunes of his NRL side.
The revelations come as the Storm line up against the Warriors in a prime NRL clash in Auckland tomorrow.
Bellamy and Storm general manager of football Frank Ponissi visited the All Blacks in New Zealand in late 2010 as the future world champions prepared for their end-of-year tour to Europe. The visit came about through Ponissi's long-standing friendship with Smith.
In 2010, the Storm endured a year which saw them stripped of two premierships and docked all their points for the season due to massive salary cap breaches.
During the visit, Smith, now assistant coach of the Super Rugby title-defending Chiefs, advised Bellamy to read Gates of Fire; a historical novel by American author Steven Pressfield about the Battle of Thermopylae and Spartan philosophy on warfare.
Bellamy read the book, prompting him to change his team's approach to football the following year.
Though he laid out the moment in his soon to be released biography Home Truths, Bellamy told Fairfax Media this week that Smith's advice was key in turning around the Storm following the 2010 scandal.
''One night we were sitting down having a beer and Wayne basically made the point about you are all probably feeling sorry for yourselves after the season you've had,'' he said.
''That was the salary cap season. I never thought I felt sorry for myself to be honest, but the way he explained it he said 'you need to read this book'.
"'If you are feeling sorry for yourself, you'll stop feeling sorry for yourself after you read this book.' As soon as I got back, I got hold of the book and I read it.
''He was right, to be honest, we were all wallowing in our sorrow a bit. I certainly got a lot out of that book as far coaching ideas go. It helped individuals in our team, too.''
The Storm went on to reach the semifinals in the 2011 season, famously losing to the Warriors, before beating the Bulldogs in last year's Grand Final.
Bellamy said he was hugely impressed by the All Blacks' set-up under Sir Graham Henry.
''The whole three days was a tremendous experience for me,'' he said. ''The biggest thing I'll always take from that is how welcoming they were, and how humble, as individuals. It was really refreshing.
''They are world-renowned for being successful. They are really gods in New Zealand, and world-wide to be honest.
''They were so humble, the playing and coaching group. For a couple of outsiders, myself and Frank, they were tremendous.''
Bellamy said in his book how the Storm's 2011 semi-final loss to the Warriors in Melbourne, where they went down 20-12, was the ''most disappointed'' he'd ever felt after a game of league.
He added the feeling of defeat was heightened by the 2010 salary cap scandal and how far his team had come in just one season.
''To lose that game was shattering for them,'' he said.
"I just really felt for the players after the effort, and what they'd given our club.
''I was disappointed for them ... I felt really sorry for them. It was a tough loss to take. Having said that, the Warriors deserved to win that night, they played a really good game of footy. They were just too good on the night.''
* Craig Bellamy's biography Home Truths is available on August 1.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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