Melbourne Storm’s premiership aspirations have been dealt a serious blow after confirmation star prop Christian Welch has suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Tests on Saturday morning confirmed the worst after Welch hurt his right knee making a routine carry in the second half of Friday night’s thrashing of Brisbane.
“Scans this morning have unfortunately confirmed that Christian Welch has ruptured his ACL in his right knee,” the Storm said on social media on Saturday.
It is the second time in three years Welch will miss a finals campaign, having blown his left knee and been sidelined during the Storm’s title run in 2017.
There were fears Welch had torn the same knee in May, but a second diagnosis showed only meniscus damage that ruled him out for just one week.
Welch celebrated the news by buying 12 lottery tickets, before going on to make his State of Origin debut for Queensland in game three.
It is a heartbreaking end to what has been a breakthrough season for the 25-year-old, who was averaging 99 metres and 19 tackles in 35 minutes per game.
His form for the competition pacesetters was understood to have caught the eye of a number of rival clubs, including Parramatta.
However he is now likely to take up a player option to remain with the Storm next year, with the hope of bouncing back and earning a new deal.
In the meantime, Tui Kamikamica and Tom Eisenhuth are likely to come into contention for the vacancy in the Storm’s 17-man line-up.
Newcastle not up to finals standard
Nathan Brown concedes Newcastle are far from the standard required for the NRL finals as their hopes of a drought-breaking appearance slip away.
The Knights slumped to their fifth straight loss with Saturday’s 30-6 defeat at Manly leaving them two points out of the eight but well off the pace.
They have now won just one of their past seven, and look nothing like the team that were sitting fourth at the halfway point of the season.
“We’re just having little windows of football where it’s not at the standard it needs to be to be a top eight side or win contests,” the Knights’ coach said.
“We put ourselves in a great spot, and we just haven’t been quite good enough to capitalise on what we did in the first half of the year.