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Tiger cubs to link with Storm Under 20s
November 9, 2012: Ethan James
When the Melbourne Storm held a training session at Langlands Park earlier this year, a wide-eyed Christian Welch admits he felt more than a little star struck.
But for the 18-year old, rubbing shoulders with some of the game's big names will be something he'll have to get used to.
The young Easts forward has been signed up by the NRL premiers on a two-year deal and will make the move to Melbourne later this month.
"I not sure how I’m going to get past the whole awkward phase of asking for photos while also training with them," he joked.
“I got a picture with Cam Smith that night at training, even then I froze up and didn’t want to talk."
Welch is one of two Tigers, along with fellow forward Alex Barr, who will join the Storm's 2013 Under 20 National Youth Competition squad.
He's expecting it to be the experience of a lifetime.
"(Pre-season) will be intense, those first few six or seven weeks you really get hammered," he said.
"But I just can’t wait to be training, putting weight on and building up. There’s probably not a better club than the Storm to go to.
"I haven’t lived away from home... (fortunately) I’m going to a host family, to have a cooked meal and get to bed early."
The self-confessed "mad Cowboys fan" played his first junior footy for Gladstone Brothers before moving to Brisbane and donning the Easts Carina jersey.
He then spent his school years playing rugby union at Villanova Boys College, where he captained the school and the First XV.
Linking with the Tigers, Welch was a part of this year's Under 18 Mal Meninga side, playing out the second half of the season in Colts.
He says the transition back to league has been worthwhile.
"I just looked at the opportunities… I love both sports but decided to give league a shot and it has worked well so far."
Easts' Director of Coaching and Development, Craig Ingebrigtsen, says the club wishes both young men the best of luck.
"Both boys have worked really hard in our academy system. Alex is a really good Easts kid - he's a workhorse of a player and he's come all the way through our junior system," he said.
"And Chrisitan's one guy who I think has a lot of potential. We'll be following their progress closely."
Along with his football education, Welch plans to continue studying a part-time Commerce/Economic degree.
And, if he finds any down-time in between the two pursuits, there's always the sights and sounds of the city to explore.
"I've been to Melbourne twice.. I love Melbourne and I love my coffee," he said.