Former Kangaroos prop Jason Ryles has emerged as a shock contender as Craig Bellamy’s successor at Melbourne after being appointed to an assistant coaching role at the NRL club.
Ryles spent the final two years of a 14-year top-flight playing career under Bellamy’s tutelage at the Storm.
Following his retirement at the end of 2013, 36-year-old Ryles has turned his hand to coaching. He has spent two seasons heading up West Wollongong in the Illawarra competition, leading them to a grand final appearance this year.
Ryles has been appointed as the Storm’s forwards coach for 2016 in place of Justin Morgan.
Premiership-winning coach Bellamy is off contract with the Storm at the end of next season and the coaching make-up of the Victorian-based franchise is under a cloud after that time.
Bellamy has indicated he could trigger a clause in his contract that will result in him sticking with the Storm through the 2018 season.
However, the former NSW State of Origin coach has also been linked to the Kangaroos’ coaching role.
Either way, Ryles’ appointment on Thursday puts him in a key position to take over from Bellamy when he does step down.
“The club is excited by the skills and talent of the new staff coming into the organisation and the ideas they will bring,” read a Storm media release in announcing Ryles’ appointment.
Bellamy has made a number of minor changes to his off-field personnel along with bringing Ryles into the Storm’s brains trust.
Ryles played 249 games with St George Illawarra, the Sydney Roosters and the Storm. He spent the 2009 season with Super League outfit Catalans Dragons.
He played 15 Tests for Australia and eight Origin matches for NSW.
Ryles missed the Storm’s 2012 grand final win due to a hamstring injury.