We caught up with former Manly centre Steven Bell for our Golden Eagles 'Where Are They Now' series.
Bell played 65 matches for the Sea Eagles between 2006-08 and played in Manly's 2008 premiership winning Grand Final team.
Read what Sea Eagle #505 had to say about his fine career.
Q&A: Steven Bell
You grew up in Emerald in Queensland and made your NRL debut with the Melbourne Storm in 2001. How did that come about?
Emerald is a great place for kids. Growing up, I used to ride my bike to my mate's house and go for swims down at the river. I completed my electrical apprenticeship in Emerald and played Qld Cup during the last two years. After my apprenticeship, I was asked to come down to Brisbane and trial for a position with Brisbane Norths, the feeder club for Melbourne. I had three years at Brisbane North, and then, one off-season, I was asked to train with Melbourne….and the rest is history.
You had five seasons at the Storm and played in three finals series. What was it about playing under Coach Craig Bellamy?
Bellamy was a great coach for me as he was hard but fair. Bellamy coached me to be a better player and helped me develop more confidence in my game. His first pre-season at the club was the toughest and set the precedence for the rest of his training sessions. I didn’t know if I’d be able to make it through that first pre-season. He was that tough!
In July 2005, you decide to leave the Storm and sign a three-year-deal with the Sea Eagles. How excited were you to work under Coach Des Hasler?
I was excited, and nervous, at the same time. I knew of what a great player Des was and I wanted to see how he was as a coach. I met Des near Manly Beach and was impressed straight away. Firstly, because Des is just such a genuine guy, has really strong values, and such a good understanding of how to build a strong club. Secondly, I was also pleased to see what the “real Manly” looked like. Before that, I thought all of Manly looked like Pittwater Road, as this was all I’d ever seen of it on the team bus going to the game. I thought I’d hit the jackpot after that!
Your close friend and Melbourne half-back, Matt Orford, decides to follow you to Manly? It was a move that worked out well for you both?
It was a great move for the both of us. We were both talking to each other at the time and trying to make the best decision. Luckily, we went with Manly as we nearly went to Souths. Just for the record, I signed before Matt. It made for a really comfortable transition, moving with your mate. We knew we had each other to rely on, both on and off the field.
You finish your first season at Manly with 13 tries in 17 games and the team makes the finals? How do you look back on that first year at the club?
I had a brilliant first season with Manly. I felt really comfortable with the team straight away, and everyone worked well together on the field. Off the field, the guys were great. There was definitely a strong bond between everyone and we all enjoyed hanging out together.
In 2007, you play in your first NRL Grand Final for Manly but go down to the Storm. A case of mixed emotions for you?
That was a tough loss. The excitement of actually getting to an NRL Grand Final was massive. It’s everything you’ve ever dreamed of as a player. To have it at your finger tips and then to see things don’t go to plan, made it hard to move forward. It was also hard to lose to your old team too, as there were a few jibes throughout the game that stuck. To know the feeling of losing something that big really gives you motivation for the next year. I knew that if we could just make it to the grand final again, we would win.
A year later, Manly beats the Storm 40-0 in a record Grand Final score. You also score a try off an amazing flick pass from Brett Stewart?
It’s a feeling that's hard to describe. I’d tried not to think about the outcome in the lead up, and just to focus on getting through the game. I guess when 'Robbo' (Michael Robertson) scored his third try, the realisation that things were looking good set in! I ended up scoring the last try of that game off a pass from 'Snake' (Brett Stewart). I can remember calling for Brett to pass the ball and then somehow he freakishly flicked it to me. I can’t even remember trying to catch the ball, it just miraculously stuck. Then after scoring, the vision of the whole team running to congratulate and join in the celebrations is one that will never leave me.
Describe the celebrations at Manly Leagues Club afterwards?
I hadn’t really given that part of the day any thought to be honest, so when the bus came up over the hill and all we could see was a sea of Manly supporters, it was the best feeling in the world! That was the best night and we couldn’t have celebrated it any better. I was pleased I’d taped the ring to my finger that night, cause it was pretty wild.
In 2010, the NRL strips the Storm of two premierships and three minor premierships for massive breaches of the salary cap rules over a five year period? How did this make you feel being a former Storm player and a Manly player in the losing 2007 GF?
It was a tough pill to swallow as who knows how it could have affected the 2007 outcome. But I could also see two sides to it. I was actually over in France, playing for the Catalan Dragons with Dallas Johnson (old Storm team mate) when the news broke. Although I felt somewhat cheated and bitter, I was also able to witness how broken Dallas was from the news. None of the Melbourne players would have suspected they were in breach. We didn’t mention it too much.
You played with some wonderful players at Manly but which players really stood out for you? What did you love about the Sea Eagles culture?
Matt Orford, as a mate, and an angry little general on the field. The Stewart brothers, 'Gift' (Glenn) and 'Snake' were amazing to play alongside with. Both had great skills and a knack of knowing when and where to be. I loved the feeling of mateship we had and being happy to have a game of high-stake poker to celebrate after a win.
Following 2008, you head to Catalans Dragons and finish your career in the Super League. How was that experience?
Living and playing in France was an amazing life experience for my family. We lived in Canet en Rousillion (near Perpignan) which was right on the beach, yet it was only a 90 minute drive to the snow. To live in and experience their culture was unforgettable. The footy was not quite the same calibre as NRL, but still very strong. Over half the team was French, and during training and games, we all communicated in French. Near the end of a game, it got pretty tough trying to decipher French and play footy at the same time!
Golden Eagles Day is such a great tradition now at Manly? How have you enjoyed these days?
I had the best time when I came back for the 2008 reunion. To be back on the Northern Beaches was great. We caught up with so many friends and the night back at our old home ground was great. I didn’t think I missed footy so much! I think it was two weeks before the smile finally faded.
What is Steve Bell doing today and how’s the family?
Our family has doubled since our Manly days. Tracey and I now have four kids - three girls and a little boy, so life is chaotic and noisy at times! I’m working at one of the mine's here in Emerald as a Supervisor Underground Electrician. I guess I’ve traded an on-field team for an underground team. It’s an interesting job and we’re enjoying our life outside of football.
Where Are They Now