Bennett and Bellamy in party patch up

The day after Brisbane were thrashed 42-12 by Melbourne at Suncorp Stadium in June, Wayne Bennett thought he needed a distraction.

So he went to a birthday party – and Storm coach Craig Bellamy was there.

Talk about awkward.

Bennett wasn’t just simmering over the round 17 thrashing – their history goes back much further than that.

Bennett may have given Bellamy his break in coaching almost 30 years ago but there had been no love lost since Brisbane upset Melbourne in the 2006 NRL grand final.

However, when Bennett saw Bellamy at the party there were no tense silences.

And certainly no WWE-style smackdown.

As the birthday boy, Brisbane and ex-Storm trainer Alex Corvo, looked on, one of the NRL’s fiercest rivalries fizzled before his eyes as the two coaching greats smoked the peace pipe.

“We had a good chat,” says Bellamy of burying the hatchet at Corvo’s 50th.

“There was no pistols at seven paces or anything.

“We had a good chat that night, we spent a fair bit of time together.

“I don’t think there’s too much of a problem there. I think you blokes (the media) talk it up more than what it is.”

Still, there is no denying the pair have not seen eye to eye since Bellamy emerged from under Bennett’s wing and became a force to be reckoned with at Melbourne from 2003.

Time and again the pair have butted heads over Melbourne’s infamous grapple tackle and wrestling tactics that have helped the Storm again become the runaway favourites this year.

Yet Bellamy hinted that he could never stay mad with the man who gave him first big coaching break.

“There’s certainly a healthy respect,” Bellamy said.

“I can’t speak for Wayne. But I’ll always be extremely grateful for the opportunity I got up there to work with him for five years.”

Bennett plucked Bellamy as an assistant from Canberra in the late 1990s where he’d previously coached the former Raiders utility.

Then came Bellamy’s really big break.

Bennett handed the Broncos’ reins to assistant Bellamy in order to concentrate on game two of the 2002 State of Origin series as Queensland coach.

Somehow the baby Broncos upset Wests Tigers 28-14 and a new coaching star was born.

After “not even getting a nibble” from other clubs, Bellamy was suddenly in demand from the Tigers and a certain Victorian club, the Storm

“If it had never happened I would probably still be an assistant coach at Brisbane,” Bellamy wrote in his book Home Truths of the Baby Broncos upset.

History shows Bellamy has forged Melbourne into a juggernaut in his 15 seasons at the helm but he has never forgotten his roots.

Bellamy made several references to Bennett’s special place in his formative years in Home Truths released in 2013.

“After the five years we had together in Brisbane, I would like to think we are really good mates now,” Bellamy wrote.

“There is nearly a decade of difference in our ages, but we get on well.

“You would not think Wayne and I would have many shared interests apart from footy – he does not drink and I enjoy having a beer, for example – but you build a personal relationship on the back of a professional relationship.”

Bennett may never win a popularity contest but he said he had never fallen out with Bellamy – outside of football.

“We are good mates when we are not playing football against each other – simple as that,” he said.

They may be back on speaking terms but Bellamy’s lopsided record against his mentor may still irk Bennett.

Bellamy enjoys a 21-10 head to head record with the seven-time premiership coach, including 16 wins in their past 21 games since the 2006 grand final.

They last met post-season in the 2009 preliminary final – won 40-10 by Melbourne.

Asked if Bellamy had the wood on him, Bennett was less chatty than at the birthday party.

“He probably has. Does it matter? It is someone’s opinion,” he said.

Yet there are still some tricks Bennett can teach Bellamy, Brisbane veteran Benji Marshall says.

At 67, Bennett has left 2005 Wests Tigers premiership player Marshall in awe since his arrival this year at the coach’s ability to learn new things.

“You learn every day under Wayne. I think the big fella (Bennett) is still learning every day too – it keeps him young,” he said.

Yet there seems no end in sight of the Bennett-Bellamy rivalry that has now spilled over into the record books.

If Brisbane win on Friday, Bennett will be the first coach to feature at 10 grand finals.

And if Melbourne emerge triumphant, Bellamy will leapfrog Jack Gibson, Warren Ryan and Norm Provan to appear in a seventh season decider.

He would move to second on the all-time list behind, you guessed it, Bennett.

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