Front-rower Christian Welch will assume sole captaincy of Melbourne Storm in the club’s 25th anniversary season in 2023.
He will be assisted by three new vice-captains - Harry Grant, Jahrome Hughes and Cameron Munster - who bring a wealth of NRL and representative experience to their roles.
Welch, 28, was joint captain of Storm for the first time in season 2022, sharing the duties with Jesse Bromwich, and his rise to solo captain in 2023 completes a leadership journey which started when he led the club’s NYC under-20s team.
Welch made his NRL debut in 2015 and has gone on to play 118 matches, as well as making six State of Origin appearances for Queensland.
He was part of Storm’s 2020 premiership-winning team and also featured in the 2016 and 2018 grand finals.
Welch named captain to Storm squad
Welch joins an esteemed list of solo Storm captains, all of whom are forwards, that includes NRL captaincy record holder Cameron Smith, Glenn Lazarus, Robbie Kearns, Rodney Howe and Stephen Kearney.
Storm CEO Justin Rodski said Welch had fully deserved the opportunity to lead the club as Storm’s first solo captain since the retirement of club legend Cameron Smith following the 2020 grand final win.
“Christian has risen through the ranks at Storm since he first came to the club as a young man from Queensland,” Rodski said.
“He quickly embraced what Storm is all about, loves living in Melbourne and has become enormously popular with everyone at the club and with our members and fans who I’m sure will be right behind him in 2023.
“As well as being a leader on the field, he is heavily involved in the game off the field, showing a great awareness of the positive differences the game can make in our community. We saw a great example of that earlier this year when he instigated a head shaving fundraiser which contributed $25,000 to Camp Quality.
“I’m sure everyone who is connected with Storm will congratulate Christian on his selection as our 2023 captain and we wish him, and our three vice-captains, all the best in their roles for the season ahead.”
Cameron Munster, who played with Welch in Storm’s under-20s team, has returned to the club’s leadership group as one of the three vice-captains for 2023.
A two-time Storm Player of the Year, he has played 173 NRL matches since his debut in 2014 to sit alongside 15 State of Origin games for Queensland and nine for the Kangaroos.
The champion five-eighth played in Storm’s 2017 and 2020 premiership teams.
Jahrome Hughes came to Melbourne with just two NRL games on his record but is now regarded as one of the best halfbacks in the competition.
His career record includes 103 Storm matches, seven appearances for New Zealand, the 2020 premiership and the 2021 Storm Player of the Year Award.
Like Welch and Munster, Harry Grant first started with Storm in the under-20s competition.
He made his Storm debut in 2018 and has played 37 matches for the club, as well as 15 for Wests Tigers in his 2020 loan season when he was named the Dally M Rookie of the Year.
The hooker quickly graduated to representative football with Queensland and then Australia, lining up for five matches for each team, highlighted by a Rugby League World Cup win with the Kangaroos at the end of 2022.
Also in the six-player leadership group with Welch, Grant, Hughes and Munster in 2023 are Ryan Papenhuyzen and Tom Eisenhuth, who have been promoted from the Emerging Leaders group.
They will work on a regular basis with Storm’s new leadership coach, recently retired Geelong AFL great Joel Selwood, who is regarded as one of the best captains in the history of Australian rules football.
Melbourne’s first game of the 2023 season will be the NRL season opener against Parramatta in Sydney on March 2 followed by the first match at AAMI Park on March 11 at AAMI Park.