FROM a Portland boy with a dream, to an NRL legend.
Craig Bellamy is proof that growing up in a small country town is no hindrance to success, provided you're dedicated and have a genuine love of what you do.
Oversized footy shorts was where the journey began
When Bellamy ran onto the field for the first time as a young kid in Portland, around 50 kilometres east of Bathurst, he never could have imagined where the sport would take him.
Growing up in the 60s and 70s, rugby league was the only winter sport played in the region.
So like most boys did, Bellamy joined his local team. And a bit of fun with friends became a catalyst for a career most could only dream of.
"I probably started playing when I was about seven," he said.
"If you didn't play rugby league in that area, you didn't play any sport in the winter. There was no AFL, there was no soccer, there was no rugby union."
With an uncle and grandfather who were handy league players, Bellamy's passion for the sport continued to grow.
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Rugby league became more than just a bit of fun on the weekends, and as an early teenager a young Bellamy was determined to go as far as he could.
Not afraid of travelling around to play, when his time as a Portland Junior came to an end, he played for Wallerawang under 16s, Lithgow Shamrocks under 18s and then moved over and played for the under 18s team at Oberon.
It was at Oberon where he learnt a lot from coach Greg Fry.
"One of my school teachers towards the end of my schooling was playing up in Oberon at the time and he told us young blokes, 'if you want to get some good coaching and learn about the game, get up and play with Oberon,'," Bellamy said.
"There was a guy called Greg Fry up there who was a really good coach.
"I only played under 18s the year he was there, but he was really helpful and taught us about the game."
There's no substitute for hard work
As far as tactical skills go, Mr Bellamy said he probably wasn't the most naturally gifted ball player, however his strength was exactly that - his strength.
Before working out and building up muscle was just part of the daily routine for a league player, Mr Bellamy had an interest in weight training.
He worked hard on being fit and strong, which became his asset throughout his entire league career.
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"I did a bit of reading as a teenager about weight training and I remember my dad made me up a set of weights, because he could weld," Bellamy said.
"Back in those days there were no gyms, there might have been a couple of dumbbells at the footy club, but other than that no one did weights, so I was reading about that and my dad made me up a set of weights and I used to go and work out three or four days a week before I started work.
"I was an apprentice electrician, so I used to get up at about 5am, go to our garage and do my workout.
"So that was my strength, I wasn't a great footy player as far as the skills side goes, but I worked really hard."
After about five years playing for Oberon, Bellamy made the move to Newcastle, to play for his old coach Greg Fry again who had moved to lead the Macquarie United team.
Then a year later in 1982 when Canberra joined the NRL competition, Bellamy received an offer to head to the Australian Capital Territory.
The move to the Raiders was the start of his 10-year career as an NRL player.
Transition to coaching
Bellamy was mid-30s when he retired from playing, which is considered a pretty long career in NRL.
But he truly loved the sport and wanted to stay involved in the game for as long as he could.
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So when his coach at the time, Tim Sheens, approached him with the idea of getting into coaching, it was music to Bellamy's ears.
"I don't know whether he was trying to get rid of me as a player and that was a nice way of putting it, because I was around 35 and probably way past my best," he said, laughing.
"But he offered me the under 21s job as the coach and I thought this is my way of staying involved in the game."
Coaching proved to be a whole new ride for Mr Bellamy, taking him around the country and on adventures he could have never imagined as a young kid in Portland.
Working with the likes of Mal Meninga and Wayne Bennett, Bellamy soaked up as much knowledge as he could.
And when he received the call up to coach the Melbourne Storm in 2002, he became a force to be reckoned with.
However, out of all the NRL milestones reached and grand finals won throughout his career, it's a game he played in 1990 that stands out as a moment he'd love to relive.
"I know it sounds a bit pissy, but in a 1990 grand final, the Raiders made the three grand finals that year, that was [under] 21s, reserve grade and first grade. I was captain of our reserve grade," Mr Bellamy said.
"Our [under] 21s won and then our reserve grade got beat in extra time.
"But I was on the bench for the first grade and I only got to play the last four or five minutes but we won that grand final.
"And it sounds silly but out of anything that has happened in the game since and before that, I never quite had a feeling like that and I just wished all of our reserve grade team could have done the same thing.
"So if I could relive one moment of my career coaching wise or playing wise, it'd be that last three or four minutes I played in that grand final."
Like anyone in the world of sport - professional or otherwise - Bellamy has experienced high highs and low lows, but has had the support of his family to get him through.
Particularly his older sister Gayle, who he said has been a rock for him since day one.
"She's always been a great sister and full of support with everything I've ever done," he said.
Bellamy still enjoys trips back to Portland to visit his family and reminisce on where his dream journey began, on an oval in a small country town in the Central West.