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'Best time of your life': Welch back on deck and happy to help

Christian Welch is embracing his role as number one "hype man” for the Maroons in Game One, having made a remarkable return to the representative arena, a year after missing an entire season with injury.

Welch ruptured his Achilles in the opening game of the 2022 season, ruling him out for the remaining games, but made a successful return to the field in Round 1 this year. So far, he has only missed the one game in the lead-up to being named as the 19th man for Queensland’s Origin I squad.

“It's really such a special thing State of Origin, Queensland, and I was only thinking, this time last year, I was still on a moon boot, couldn't really weight-bear, couldn't walk properly and had to work my way back,” the Melbourne Storm skipper said.

“It’s great to be involved with the team and it's such a special team … these Origin camps are the best time of your life.”

Christian Welch returned from a season out with injury in Round 1 of 2023.
Christian Welch returned from a season out with injury in Round 1 of 2023. ©NRL Images

When veteran Josh Papali’i announced his retirement before the 2023 campaign kicked off, the Maroons lost one of their most senior forwards, prompting coach Billy Slater to promote Thomas Flegler to start alongside Lindsay Collins up front, while Pat Carrigan, David Fifita and Tom Gilbert will be the starting back row.

In camp, Welch’s experience in Origin and his role as a captain of an NRL team will be put to good use by Slater, who will be counting on him to provide guidance to the younger forwards.

“I think my role in the camp is to just try and help the boys anywhere I can, particularly the forward pack and just offer up anything I can to help them prepare better and help them be at their best come next Wednesday,” Welch told

“It's really exciting the depth of the forwards that we have in Queensland. It' really amazing.

“I’ll be a bit of a hype man and also try my best to help out where I can for the team. 

“I have been around a little while, but there's plenty of guys there who have done a fantastic job for Queensland and even the youth coming through, these guys are the best players in the NRL, these young Queensland forwards who have been picked.”

Next Wednesday's match will be played at Adelaide Oval, where Queensland won the last time they played a series opener in 2020 during the COVID-19 affected season, and Welch said it was important to take matches away from the ‘traditional’ grounds to help grow the game.

“Being based in Melbourne ... these cities like Adelaide and Perth, they might not have an NRL team and they're not considered a rugby league heartland, but they really appreciate good sport and a really good contest and I think State of Origin is the greatest product in the Australian sporting landscape, in my biased opinion,” Welch said.

“I think it's great and I think the people of Adelaide, they'll get right behind it and they'll stack Adelaide Oval out and watch such a great product.

“Queensland, New South Wales just going at it, the emotion and the passion of both sides, it's going to be really exciting and I'm in the best seat in the house.

“I'll be at the end of the bench cheering on the boys (being a) bit of a hype man, so it's exciting.”

The team travel to Adelaide on Monday to continue their preparations for Wednesday’s game.

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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