There was a Eurobodalla influence in the NRL Grand Final on Sunday, as Batemans Bay local Adam O’Brien helped coach the Melbourne Storm to their third premiership.
O’Brien, who played for the Batemans Bay Tigers in their 2002 premiership year, was an assistant to Craig Bellamy, looking after the attack and the back line.
O’Brien credits the Bay for giving him his love of the game.
“I started playing footy in Batemans Bay when I was four years old,” he said. “That’s my home, both my my wife and I are from there.
“That’s where I fell in love with the game. I do it as a job now, but all those years playing at Mackay Park and being around the sport are a big part of who I am today.”
And even though O’Brien is now at the pinnacle of the game, he still holds a special place for the Tigers.
“I played in a team that made three grand finals in a row,” he said.
“I didn’t want to leave until I got to win a premiership, and fortunately we managed to win the competition in 2002.
“I joined Brad (Arthur) up in Cairns after the premiership.”
O’Brien stayed with the Cairns club until 2007, but injuries would eventually change his rugby league outlook.
“I had a shoulder reconstruction, and then a knee reconstruction while I was in Cairns,” he said. “That pushed me down the coaching path.”
His coaching talent would not go unnoticed, as he teamed up with Brad Arthur to coach the Melbourne Storm’s first U20s side in 2008.
They would take the side to the 2009 National Youth Competition premiership.
“We had guys like Jesse Bromwich and Jordan McLean in that team, and they’re obviously senior premiership players now,” he said.
“I think to be with those guys for such a long period of time really helps. I started working with them as 16-year old kids, and now they’re fathers and husbands.
“You get to know them, and that helps when coaching them. You learn how they respond and communicate.”
O’Brien now learns from Craig Bellamy, who is widely recognised as the best coach in the game.
“I’ve been with Craig for 10 years now,” O’Brien said. “I moved up to the seniors in 2011 as a development coach, and I became his assistant in 2013.
“What really stood out to me was his ability to stay calm in the moment. He’s extremely measured.”
And although O’Brien and the coaching staff played a big part in the premiership, he gave credit to the players, particularly the ‘Big 3’.
“Billy (Slater), Cameron (Smith), and Cooper (Cronk) have been been enormous this season,” he said. “They’re like and extension of the coaching staff.
“They’re part of our senior leadership group with Jesse (Bromwich), and they’re all about building good characters at the club.
“When your best players are also your best people, it’s a very good position to be in.”
O’Brien is now on the radar of a number of NRL clubs looking for head coaches, but he’s not giving the rumours any traction.
“It’s not something that absorbs me too much,” he said. “I’m really grateful for the opportunity to be at this club, and the amount of responsibility I’ve been given means my job satisfaction is very high.
“I get to learn from the best, and I think it’s important that I do a really thorough apprenticeship.”
And even though the season is now finished for the Storm, O’Brien has a busy schedule ahead.
“I fly out to America on Saturday with Craig (Bellamy) to tour a few clubs over there,” he said.
“Once that’s done, I’ll spend a couple of weeks in the Bay with family, then get back to it in November for preseason.”