Melbourne Storm is set to play out the remainder of the 2019 season without forward Christian Welch, who suffered a suspected ACL injury during Thursday’s victory over Wests Tigers.
Welch was struck by the injury shortly before half-time and was helped off the field as the Storm went on to record a nail-biting 24-22 win at AAMI Park.
The 24-year-old’s injury was a major downfall in what was an exciting comeback victory for Melbourne, with Welch’s Origin debut likely ruled out for the upcoming series having found a promising run of form.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy said he was worried for Welch’s health following the initial prognosis and doubts he’ll make a return this year.
“There is not a great mood in the dressing room at the moment,” Bellamy said post-game.
“It is really disappointing for us and for Christian, he is quite upset and his teammates are really feeling for him.
“He is an important part of our team, has been playing really well and was in line to play Origin, so the whole team and staff are really feeling for him.”
Welch has a battling history with ACL injuries, where he suffered a similar complaint midway through the 2017 season against the Dragons, eventually missing out on Melbourne’s premiership victory over the Cowboys.
Welch’s latest setback could very well rule out another chance of a premiership with Melbourne, with the Storm’s chances of a title also taking a hit with their latest casualty.
“He is going to be real hard to replace,” Bellamy said.
“He has been a real important part of our team for two or three years now.
“He keeps getting better each year, improving in little things he needs to improve in, is a real hard worker and gets on well with all the other players.
“It’s certainly far from ideal and we are going to miss him.”
The lighter news for Bellamy was the performance of fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen, who was a leading factor in the Storm’s victory in his first start.
The 20-year-old scored the first try of the night after running 85 metres to touch down under the posts in the first half, forcing Bellamy into a selection headache for his starting fullback selection against the Bulldogs in round 11.
Papenhuyzen’s outing against the Tigers will bolster his odds of starting consecutive weeks over New Zealander Jahrome Hughes.
“We have got a couple of days off over the weekend off, so I will give it a bit of thought,” Bellamy said.
“He [Papenhuyzen] did a great job. He made an impression and came up with a couple of important plays.”