Melbourne Storm lose Brandon Smith George Jennings and Christian Welch to injury

The Melbourne Storm were rocked by a series of brutal injuries in their season opener, appearing to lose George Jennings and Christian Welch to season-ending injuries, and hooker Brandon Smith for a month.

Losing Smith to a suspected broken hand in the opening minutes was bad enough, but Jennings joined him on the sidelines soon after with a serious knee injury.

But the worst news came late in the match, when Origin prop Christian Welch hit the deck with a non-contact injury.

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The club captain was coming out of the defensive line when he collapsed in pain.

The Storm confirmed after the match that Welch’s injury was suspected to be a ruptured Achilles, while Bellamy said after the match that Jennings was suspected of having torn his ACL.

The timing of Welch’s injury couldn’t have been much worse, with Melbourne doing enough to secure a victory over the Wests Tigers thanks to some late heroics from Jahrome Hughes and Xavier Coates.

“We should be jumping out of our skins, but we feel so devastated for the two guys who hurt them badly,” coach Craig Bellamy said afterwards – while confirming both men would miss the season.

“He’s missed two full seasons with the ACL, so it’s really tough for him,” Bellamy said of his captaincy.

“There was no one around him…and all of a sudden it had to go away. You don’t know what to tell them but like I said, we’ll support them as much as we can.”

Welch in the offseason re-signed with the Storm on a three-year contract extension.

The underdogs led 14-6 going into the second half, but the Storm, with a squad of 15 for most of the match, were able to find another gear.

In view of the situation, Bellamy was delighted with the courage shown by his players.

“To be completely honest, I don’t remember an effort as brave as that,” he said.

“If you look at the stats from the first half, we should have been 20 behind.”

They will welcome Chris Lewis, Harry Grant and Cameron Munster from suspensions next week, and will likely see Jesse Bromwich return from a COVID scare – but that’s cold comfort after the loss of several key players.

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