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Welch in demand again after storming back to peak form

Just over a year to the day since a cruel ACL rupture cost Christian Welch a three-year Eels deal, the Melbourne prop is in demand yet again ahead of a bumper clash with the pack he almost joined.

Welch will shoulder a heavy load for the Storm in Thursday's blockbuster given Dale Finucane's six-week calf injury and the fact Jesse Bromwich is facing a week out unless he successfully challenges a one-week ban for a "hip drop tackle" at the judiciary.

Welch has been one of the game's form front-rowers in recent weeks and has timed his run to perfection as he and Melbourne begin extension talks once more. understands a two or three-year Storm deal is being considered by both parties, with keeping Welch in purple a priority on either side of the negotiating table.

Given his status as a Queensland Origin prop on the rise, Welch is also in the sights of rival clubs with St George Illawarra understood to be in the mix for his services beyond 2020.

In August last year Welch had been poised to accept a three-year offer from the Eels after meeting Brad Arthur, only to suffer his second ACL tear and take up an existing option in his deal to remain with Melbourne.

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Welch was reluctant to discuss his future during Monday's media call out of respect for the uncertainty many fringe first-graders find themselves in with reduced NRL squad numbers looming next season.

But he left no doubt about his gratitude toward the Storm after first joining feeder side Brisbane Easts Tigers as a big-bodied centre in 2012.

"We're in talks and seeing how that progresses over the next couple of months," Welch said.

"I love this club. I came here as an 18-year-old and it's done so much for me on and off the field.

"It's developed me as a rugby league player but also as a young man and a lot of values that we have for on-field, it really applies to your life outside it.

"Respect, integrity, humility, stuff like that. I really love this club, everything we're about and the people involved so I'm very passionate about it."

As well as missing big names up front the Storm are also short in their spine with Cameron Smith (shoulder) and Cameron Munster (knee) still only training with the club's rehab group and Jahrome Hughes (groin) also in doubt for the Parramatta clash.

Hughes's potential absence brings Nicho Hynes or rookie Cooper Johns – son of Knights great Matty – into contention for a starting role in the halves.

Welch meanwhile has averaged 143 metres and 27 tackles a game over the past five weeks, throwing 13 offloads in that time as well as he keeps Kiwi star Nelson Asofa-Solomona on the bench.

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The untimely injury that scotched his Eels deal last year was eventually followed by Reagan Campbell-Gillard landing at Parramatta in a move heavily subsidised by Penrith.

Both he and Welch have made most every post a winner since, setting the scene for a solid stoush up front between the pair on Thursday.

"I've got plenty of respect for the Parramatta forward pack and how they go about their business," Welch said.

"They're a really classy side and I think you've seen the way Reagan has come into that team and really added a lot.

"I've played against him in 20s and for years right back to his Penrith days.

"The bunch of forwards they've got there are really tough and hard working."

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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