Christian Welch has opened up about his long road back to recovery after suffering an Achilles injury in round one last season against the West Tigers.
The prop previously was on cloud nine after being named co-captain following Cam Smith’s departure but was dealt a crushing blow when he turned to retreat to his defensive line only to suffer the injury that wiped out his entire campaign.
Christian Welch hopes to be ready for round one next season
“I found it really difficult,” he told local media. “Probably more difficult than my ACL recoveries that have a longer timeline associated with them but, mentally, it’s been a real big struggle.”
MORE: New stadium in Canberra remains on the backburner | Sam Walker signs new Roosters deal
The Maroons representative is finally back at training and is earmarked to return for the club’s opening round clash with last year’s beaten finalists Parramatta at CommBank Stadium. This, incidentally, was the scene of Welch’s latest injury blow.
“I’m back at training and slowly integrating into the skills, so it’s all tracking really well for round one,” he said.
“I’m ticking off the different types of training sessions we have. [I’m doing] the more controlled sessions and then hopefully by January, it’ll be full noise.”
Welch has been buoyed by the opportunity to be back amongst his teammates after spending most of the year doing his rehabilitation work away from the main group.
He had harboured hope of returning, if the Storm made it to the grand final, in a bid to try and send-off some of his departing teammates in style. Yet when he realised it wouldn’t be possible, he reduced his training workload which extended his timeframe of recovery.
“I was really hopeful of getting back, but once I accepted that I wouldn’t, we slowed it down and really focused on strength,” he said.
“I think particularly with my injury history – having two ACL’s – you’re at a really big risk of re-doing an ACL [if you push too hard].”
MORE: Former Melbourne stalwart ‘blown away’ by Wayne Bennett’s vision for the Dolphins
Christian Welch thanks his family for their support during injury struggle
Welch shared some details of his struggles and how he dealt with the setback of not only going from the high of being handed the captaincy to facing a brutal rehab period, but also the restrictions the injury placed on his day-to-day life.
“I think one of my proudest moments was being made co-captain and leading the boys out for that game, and then it was pretty grim,” he said.
“I would’ve liked to have had a big year; play well for the Storm, send those guys out who were leaving, and put yourself forward for Queensland and representative teams. But that all gets taken off the table.
“It was tough, but I got through it. My family were awesome because I don’t really have anyone down in Melbourne.
“I’m from Queensland and don’t have a partner, so my sister came down for the first two weeks and looked after me.
“You’re pretty immobile. I had a moon boot on and had to sleep with it on for about eight weeks. I couldn’t even drive anywhere because it was my driving leg.”
MORE: Josh Hodgson details his ‘lost’ year at Canberra as he gears up for Parramatta switch
Despite suffering three long-term injuries, Welch was adamant he never had any thoughts about giving the game away, even in his darkest moments.
“There were some down times, but I’ve also had a lot of good times,” he said.
“I love coming into training and mixing with the guys…we’re in a really privileged job, here. We get paid well to do what we do.
“It’s been disappointing, at times, with the body and injuries but I’ve always wanted to keep playing.
“It was pretty tough initially, but I got through it and I’m feeling really good and positive about the season coming up.”
Welchy comes back to training after a year away and is suddenly a part of the Old Dogs ?
Catch up with Welchy now ?
— Melbourne Storm (@storm) December 6, 2022
In his time away from the action, Welch has also been dealt another surprise after becoming one of the veterans following the mass exodus of experience through the likes of Jesse Bromwich and Felise Kaufusi.
“It’s happened pretty quickly- I’ve gone to the ‘old dog’ status,” he smiled.
“I’m born in 94 and Cam Smith was 84, so I was always 10 years younger than him. Some of the boys now are born in 2004, so I’ve made the transition.”