Revealed: Broncos CEO held talks with Bellamy
BRISBANE chief executive Paul White has blindsided Wayne Bennett by holding secret talks with Storm super coach Craig Bellamy.
News Corp Australia can reveal White is the Broncos official involved in $5.6 million negotiations with Bellamy in an explosive development that leaves Bennett fighting for his future at Red Hill.
Storm powerbrokers are aware of Bellamy's clandestine meeting with White, who was Brisbane CEO when the club board sacked Anthony Griffin in 2014 to bring Bennett back to the Broncos.
White has had at least two conversations with Bellamy in the past month.
Those talks escalated when an undisclosed Broncos official flew to Melbourne last Thursday to discuss a four-year deal with Bellamy worth $1.4 million a season - the richest coaching contract in NRL history.
Storm hierarchy is also aware of Brisbane's furtive trip to Melbourne.
Bennett was not aware of the White-Bellamy meeting, but has twice heard rumours the Broncos are targeting his Storm rival, most recently two days ago, just before news broke of Brisbane's massive $5.4 million bid.
A furious Bennett has since confronted White about the Bellamy approach.
White and Bennett's friendship stretches back 34 years when the pair first met at the Queensland Police Academy in 1984.
White and Bennett both declined to comment last night, but the Broncos coach will address speculation about his future this morning at his weekly press conference following Brisbane's captain's run.
White will also attend the press conference to respond to the Bellamy bombshell.
Bellamy will also front the media at 3pm Wednesday at Melbourne airport, where it is understood the Storm coach will reveal plans to make a definitive call on his future in the next fortnight.
The Storm have tabled a three-year extension worth about $4 million, but it is dwarfed by the Broncos' proposal. They have discussed a four-year deal worth $1.4m a season - the richest coaching contract in NRL history.
Bennett, who first employed Bellamy as his assistant at Brisbane in 1998, is currently on $1 million at the Broncos.
The 68-year-old Bennett is off-contract at the end of next season and has no plans to cut short his tenure at the club, insisting he still retains the passion and hunger to coach in the NRL in 2019.
It means White and the Broncos board face the gut-wrenching prospect of either sacking Bennett a year early, or asking Bellamy to wait 12 months before taking charge of Brisbane in 2020.
Melbourne bosses, however, will not allow Bellamy to sign a 12-month extension, meaning the 58-year-old must ostensibly decide between the Storm or the Broncos.
The Bennett-Bellamy coaching narrative has had some extraordinary twists and turns.
The duo fell out sensationally in 2006 over the Storm grapple-tackle saga, with Bennett vehemently opposing the wrestling tactics that Bellamy's Melbourne teams mastered.
The Broncos then attempted to sign Bellamy in 2008 when Bennett announced he was joining the Dragons, only for the deal to collapse when former Brisbane powerbrokers slapped a deadline on Bellamy.
Last month, Bellamy exclusively told News Corp Australia that he had not closed the door on a return to the Broncos and would be open to any offer.
"To say I would never coach the Broncos ... I wouldn't say that," he said.
"You never know what's going to happen in life. A couple of times I said I would retire and here I am, I'm still coaching.
"I wouldn't rule any option out. To be honest, the way Wayne is going, he might outlast me."
Brisbane's largest private shareholder, Phil Murphy, said he is not aware of any formal approach to Bellamy, but believes he would be an ideal choice to succeed Bennett.
"He is a superstar coach," said Murphy, whose company owns 22 per cent of the Broncos.
"I haven't heard about Brisbane approaching Bellamy, but if the club moves Wayne on or he decides to go, Craig is the best option on the market.
"If Wayne goes, as a shareholder, I would fully support getting Craig."