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Dear Storm: Welch's farewell note to teammates he never sent

Christian Welch was on his way to the Eels and had written a farewell note to his teammates last year before a twist of fate in the form of an ACL rupture kept him at the Storm.

As the 26-year-old prop prepared for Sunday’s grand final against the Panthers, he felt ready to finally speak about a life-changing moment that came unannounced.

Like the lines in a famous John Denver song, Welch had his Melbourne bags packed. He was leaving a on a jet plane and didn’t know if he’d be back again.

He then ruptured his ACL against the Broncos in round 16 last year just 24 hours after deciding to join Brad Arthur’s Eels outfit.

"It is pretty funny actually. I had called my manager on the Thursday. We were coming up here [to Queensland] to play the Broncos on Friday. I said ‘let’s go, let’s take the opportunity at Parramatta’," Welch recalled.

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"It was going to be a three-year deal and I had made peace with it. I even wrote up a thing on my phone. I have still got it in my notes, thanking the Storm fans and the club for the opportunity and how grateful I was to be a part of the club for six years.

"Then obviously I got injured and Parramatta pulled the offer, and I totally understand that. It was my second ACL and there is a danger and a risk of taking a guy like that on.

"Parramatta probably have got a bit of a history in some ways of bad salary cap management in previous administrations, so I totally understand."

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Just over a year later, Welch is in his third decider with Melbourne.

"I have a lot of respect for Parramatta. I flew up there and met Brad Arthur and the coaching staff, and Craig Sultana who is the football manager and was at the Storm previously. They are a great bunch of guys," he said.

"I went to Uganda with Tim Mannah, and he is a great fella. There is no ill-will but it was just a fork in the road.

"That opportunity went away and I signed for another year at the Storm, and have just re-signed for another two years so it is crazy how things work."

Welch recently revealed how he had mentally dealt with having suffered two ACL injuries on either knee by seeking counsel from Melbourne performance and sports psychologist Jacqui Louder.

Storm vice-captain Jesse Bromwich is just happy to have the man he calls "sea cow" alongside him when he runs out against the Panthers, and for the next two seasons.

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"It is really good for the club because he is a real good clubman," Bromwich said.

"He organises a lot of our off-field get-togethers and is a really intelligent front-rower as well, so he says anyway.

"It has been really good for him after two ACLs to come back and a real credit to the way he applied himself to his rehab.

"We all give him stick, but he is a really important part of our team."

Welch is hoping to lift skipper Cameron Smith aloft on Sunday night, as the Storm did after the preliminary final win over Canberra at Suncorp Stadium. Like the rest of his teammates, he’s not sure if it will be for the last time.

"I kind of just assumed he was retiring after we chaired him off but apparently that is not it," Welch grinned.

"I suppose he has owned the [Suncorp Stadium] cauldron for many years in Origin and with the Storm, and he did make some big plays with that [Nick] Cotric tackle. I’d probably chair him off for that tackle alone, so I am not sure. I thought he was retiring but he might be playing on. Who knows?"

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Welch’s season won’t be done whatever the result on Sunday. He is set to be named in the Maroons 27-man squad for the upcoming State of Origin series where he will join Josh Papalii and company in Queensland’s front-row rotation.

"It is a bit of a hard one for me," he said.

"I have only played one game and played 25 or 30 minutes so I don’t really feel like talking out of turn. I haven’t had any calls or anything.

"Playing against guys like Josh Papalii, he’s been playing some awesome footy. If I do get picked I’d be quietly excited about the forward pack and that we could go out there and really take it to them."

Back to that "Leaving on a Jet Plane" tune, when he gets back to the Sunshine Coast after the decider he won’t have the "wedding ring" from the Denver verse.

Team song out of the way however, he does hope to be wearing a premiership ring.