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Place in history books beckons for Craig Bellamy ahead of ninth grand finals appearance

The record books beckon for Penrith but Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy can create his own slice of rugby league history if he can plot another Storm victory in Sunday night's blockbuster NRL grand final.

Craig Bellamy coach of the Melbourne Storm. Source: Photosport

An 18th straight win for the Panthers would smash the longest winning streak to claim the title, seven more than Manly's 11 consecutive victories en route to the 1972 premiership.

The Panthers are already riding the equal second-longest winning wave the game has ever seen, two games shy of the 1975 Roosters' 19 victories on the trot.

But standing in the way of Penrith's date with destiny is a 61-year-old master mentor bidding to become the oldest coach ever to taste grand final glory.

Super coach Wayne Bennett was 60 when he guided St George Illawarra to premiership glory over the Roosters in 2010.

Fittingly, Bellamy will equal Bennett's nine grand final appearances on Sunday night when he attempts to remove his friend and former colleague from a page in the history books.

Either way, Melbourne playmaker Cameron Munster insists the Storm coach belongs in the same conversation and ranks with the seven-times title winner.

"He's up there with Wayne Bennett. I know he hasn't been in the game as long as Wayne but he's got that aura about him similar to Wayne," said Munster, who believes Bellamy's effort to steer the Storm to the 2020 decider during COVID-19 ranks as one of his finest achievements.

"What he has brought to the team off the field in the bubble is probably more respected around the group.

"Just the way he has brought everyone together, especially our renegades, making everyone feel part of the team.

"The reason why we are playing the grand final is our renegades, our reserves players. They make us play a game at training and provide competition for positions and make everyone accountable.

"That's the reason why we are so driven and so successful this year."

Next season will be Bellamy's 19th and last at Melbourne and Munster would not have any problem if the veteran coach finished his career as a consultant in Brisbane - or elsewhere.

"If he decides it's time to go to a different club, then it's his decision. He'll make the right decision for him and his family and the club." Munster said.

"He's been such a great coach and person and mentor for everyone at this club.

"He's had the big three (of Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk) here but he also helped make the big three and they'd be more than happy to say that.

"They had a lot of talent but (Bellamy) had the drive to push them and make them want to play better and improve."