Martin Bella is an Australian former rugby league footballer of the 1980s and 90s. A prop forward, he achieved national and state representation and played club football for various teams in Queensland, New South Wales and England. He is of Italian descent.
He is the brother of Australian international Robert and South Queensland Crushers player Anthony.
Martin Bella's career started out in the Foley Shield. His Mackay Under-18 side defeated Herbert River in the final after representing Queensland and Australia at schoolboy level the previous two seasons. Bella left North Queensland to play with Easts Tigers in Brisbane Rugby League premiership from 1983. After three seasons in Brisbane and two off-seasons playing for Halifax in England, Bella moved to North Sydney Bears in 1986.
North Sydney Bears
At the end of the 1986 NSWRL season, Bella went on the 1986 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain and France, playing in most games on the tour, but not the Tests. In 1987 he played State of Origin and in 1988 made his first Test appearance in the third Test against the touring Great Britain side.
Also in 1988 he put on his boots for Queensland and made a clean sweep of the interstate series with Sam Backo providing a memorable rampaging display of front row power. Bella and Backo, both North Queenslanders, lined up for a repeat performance again against the Blues in 1989 with another awesome display up front, Bella was named man-of-the-match in the series opener as the Maroons again whitewashed the Blues. Bella again toured with the Kangaroos in 1990 and played a total of nine Tests for Australia, and a record twenty State of Origin games, at the time a feat unequalled by any forward from either State.
Manly Sea Eagles
Bella played with the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles from 1990 to 1992, appearing in 57 matches and scoring two tries. At the end of the 1990 NSWRL season, he went on the 1990 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain and France. In the third and deciding match of the 1991 State of Origin series he was once again named man-of-the-match.
His career continued with the Canterbury Bulldogs club, which he joined for the 1993 and 1994 seasons, until his return to North Queensland to play with the newly formed North Queensland Cowboys in the expanded twenty team Australian Rugby League competition.
North Queensland Cowboys
The burly Mackay forward had a long rep career but his signing at the Cowboys was sadly for them on the backend of his eventful career. There was nothing flashy about Bella's style of play - simple forward moving football. However, he was one of the strongest selections for the Cowboys first year in competition. Full of leadership qualities over the younger personnel at the club, Bella had vast experience behind him from those Kangaroo Tours and Queensland Maroons experience. Considered by many a Queenslander as a great forward with great passion. However he was cut from the club at the back end of the 1995 season because of behavioural problems leaving him looking down the barrel of retirement.
Legend: Gms = Games, Trs = Tries, Gls = Goals, FGls = Field Goals, Pts = Points.
Gold Coast Chargers
Bella again managed to attract attention, this time around for another Queensland club, when he was lured out of possible retirement to play with the Gold Coast Chargers in 1996-97. At the time, the Gold Coast club were dwindling away under debts and poor form and in need of some strong support. Bella produced numerous worthy performances and led the Gold Coast team to its first ever finals playoffs of its rollercoaster eight-year existence during the year of the Super League split in 1997.
In 2000 Bella was awarded the Australian Sports Medal for his contribution to Australia's international standing in rugby league.
Bella is a qualified Physiotherapist.