When they say Christian Welch is a student of the game – they mean that quite literally.
While he is now fully focused on preseason preparations; during his off-season, he used his break away from rugby league to become a bona fide Harvard graduate – how’s that for the mantelpiece?
Along with fellow Melbourne Storm team mate Ryan Hoffman, he travelled to the US campus last October to complete a two-day course in 'Negotiations Skills: strategies for increased effectiveness'; something that he hopes will come in handy in the near future.
“I thought it was a good opportunity to get some more hands-on experience – especially in a place like Harvard,” Welch said.
“At the same time, I have managed my own contract – and I am actually off contract at the end of the year and I think it’s quite a practical course to do as well relative to my own negotiations.
“It was a great campus and it’s like a little town in Boston on its own – really enjoyed the classes and you have so many different people from all over the world.”
For Welch, putting in work to develop himself off the field is nothing new (he is now also currently undertaking an MBA at UNSW AGSM) and he has always spoken about how important it is to for players to look towards their life after football.
While not all players are similarly academically inclined; Welch agrees with the NRL’s work to focus on developing well-rounded players who achieve success on the field as well as off it.
“I think it doesn’t matter what you want to do – you might want to be a carpenter at the end of footy – but as long as you are being proactive and chip away at these things, at least when you finish footy, you have a few skills,” he said.
“We have a big group at Storm led by Will Chambers – he does one day a week on the tools,” Welch said.
“You don’t have to be that guy that goes to Harvard doing degrees – as long as you are chasing something you are interested in after footy; you’ll be a better footy player as well.
“You’ll be more prepared for real life, because at the moment, you are kind of used to living in a bit a of bubble.
“(Playing rugby league) is a great lifestyle and it’s a great job ... (but) when you think about your working life, it’s such a small percentage of lives.”
However, given his recent form – he won’t have to worry about a post-rugby league career just yet.
He is now well-established in the Storm set up, even captaining the side in last weekend’s trial against the New Zealand Warriors in Geelong and he is pushing at the door for further representative honours.
He was again a member of the Queensland Emerging Origin squad earlier this year and has also spent time in Origin camp as 18th man.
“Being exposed to the Origin (team) and being part of the past two games was something that makes that dream a bit real – how close you are and how close you are to seeing it,” Welch said of his experience in the camps.
“And certainly – just playing with some of those guys like Greg Inglis and that, absolute greats of the game, it’s a real dream.
“That’s why I am having a real big focus on my preseason and really trying to improve and add a bit of size (he has put on three kilos and is now up to 112kg) and hopefully start the season quite well and put my name forward.”
With more than 60 NRL games under his belt, he is also sharing his knowledge with the next generation of forwards coming through both in the Storm and Queensland representative systems.
This includes a number of players who are on a similar pathway to his own, coming from regional areas to play in the Intrust Super Cup as they aim to realise their NRL dream.
“I’ve been lucky enough to (have started my NRL career with the Storm) and come here when I was 18 – same as blokes like Tino (Fa'asuamaleaui),” the former Easts Tigers player said.
“He’s only 18 and he’s really training really well and obviously played really strongly in the Intrust Super Cup as a teenager and physically, he’s very strong and really wants to learn.
“A bloke like that is really flourishing here at the moment – he’s having a great preseason at the moment (and) there’s plenty more; Harry Grant is another who is having a great preseason.
“He’s a former Queensland Under 20s hooker and he’s soaking it all up ... why wouldn’t you if you had a guy like Cameron Smith to learn from.”
> > Welch, Fa'asuamaleaui, Grant and Smith are all part of the Melbourne Storm team who are travelling to Mackay to play NQ Cowboys tomorrow (Saturday, March 2) night.