State of Origin star Christian Welch has rejected interest from the Dolphins and recommitted to the Melbourne Storm through to 2025.
The damaging prop forward was already under contract for next season, but had been permitted to negotiate with rival clubs for 2023 from November 1.
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A Queenslander with proven leadership capabilities, Welch firmed as an ideal target for the Dolphins, who will enter the NRL as the league’s 17th franchise the season after next.
Inaugural head coach Wayne Bennett will have to look elsewhere for experience up front now that Welch has inked a three-year contract extension that will keep him in Melbourne past his 31st birthday.
“I love this club, so I’m pumped to be staying around till the end of 2025. I came down as an 18 year old and have made some lifelong friendships and memories along the way,” Welch wrote on social media.
In a separate statement, Welch said he appreciated his loved ones were able to understand his desire to stay in Melbourne.
“Special thanks to my family in Brisbane. They understand how special a club it is and have continued to support me staying down here,” he said.
“I can’t wait to get out there on AAMI Park in front of our fans who have had it so tough for the last few years.”
Storm general manager of football Frank Ponissi, one of the architects of the club’s evergreen roster, said re-signing Welch was “a priority” heading into 2022.
“We’re very happy that Christian has committed to this new contract with us that will take his time with Storm well past the 10-year mark,” Ponissi said.
“He was off contract at the end of 2022 and was a priority re-signing for us.
“Although his career has had some setbacks, he has persevered and continued to grow and mature as a player on the field and as a leader of our club both on and off the field.
“There’s no doubt he will play a very important role in the Storm’s future.”
One of the premier forwards in the competition, Welch has become a mainstay of Melbourne’s best 17 in recent years and featured in the club’s 2020 grand final-winning side.
He was also a member of the Queensland team that defied the odds to claim victory in the 2020 State of Origin series. Welch backed that effort up by appearing in all three games of this year’s triptych.