Welch to lead Storm with Munster among vice-captains
Learning from two of sports greatest captains in Cameron Smith and Joel Selwood, prop Christian Welch feels being skipper of the Melbourne Storm will make him a better player.
The 28-year-old continues a long tradition at the Storm of a forward leading the club, dating all the way back to inaugural captain Glenn Lazarus.
Reformed bad boy Cameron Munster and his halves partner Jahrome Hughes, as well as young hooker Harry Grant, are his vice-captains.
It's a turnaround for Munster, who was cut from the side's leadership group twice, most recently in late 2021 after being filmed partying post-season with white powder.
Welch shared the job with Jesse Bromwich in 2022 but suffered a ruptured Achilles in round one.
He said he didn't have to think twice about taking on the added pressure of being captain while he was returning from a serious injury.
"I've always been pretty keen; I really care a lot about this club and the people in it and it certainly doesn't take away energy from me, if anything it gives me energy," the Maroons Origin forward said.
"I'm passionate about driving this club forward."
Melbourne boss Justin Rodski said Welch was the "stand-out" candidate, noting his fund-raising efforts in the community as well as his on-field commitment.
"He leads this club on the field with his actions but also off the field with what he does around the club and within the community," Rodski said.
"He's one of the one of the best people in rugby league."
Rodski said star five-eighth Munster, who recently re-signed until 2027, had earned an official leadership role.
"Cameron's obviously had some challenges off the field over the years but over the last 12 months he has led with his actions.
"He's showing, through the way that he prepares, the way that he comes to training and the way that he acts around the club that he's ready to rejoin the leadership group."
Welch joined the Storm as an 18-year-old and played the bulk of his NRL career under record-breaking captain Smith, who retired in 2020.
Coming off another AFL premiership, Geelong legend Selwood joined the club this off-season as a leadership coach with Welch saying he'd already benefited from his experience.
"It's been interesting seeing Joel and a bit of a contrast in how he approaches footy.
"It's been really refreshing seeing how after a loss or a win, he still wants to guys coming into the club on Monday, not being able to tell what the result was.
"He's all about the process, not necessarily the result, and that's something we can get better at at the Storm, just sticking to the process."
The announcement came as the Melbourne battled an injury crisis a week out from their NRL season-opener against Parramatta next Thursday.
The Storm are requesting dispensation from the NRL to be able to select Young Tonumaipea from outside their top 30.
With crash-tackling centre Justin Olam sidelined with a broken arm, the Storm have also lost 21-year-old winger Dean Ieremia for the season with an ACL injury.
Marion Seve has also been unable to train due to a foot issue, leaving youngsters Grant Anderson and Jack Howarth as the available centres.
Giant prop Tui Kamikamica is also expected to be out for up to six weeks with a tendon injury in his foot.