Talking with Christian Welch offers an insight into Melbourne Storm NRL dominance

Christian Welch of the Storm celebrates scoring a try against the Broncos. Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Despite their dynasty of dominance, the Melbourne Storm are a club whose incredible accomplishments have long been shrouded in mystery.

Many have sought to understand what goes on behind AAMI Park's closed doors and attempted to implement it at their own club, yet none have succeeded.

As such, little is known about the Storm's rugby league formula for success.

Melbourne's Big Three - Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater - were clearly the common denominators in each of the club's 2007*, 2009*, 2012 and 2017 premiership seasons while also doubling as a large chunk of the spine behind Queensland's decade of State of Origin dominance.

Coach Craig Bellamy has also clearly played an integral role since taking over in 2003, cementing himself as one of rugby league's greatest coaches in the process. In seventeen years at the helm, Bellamy's yet to coach a losing NRL season.

But that's about all the information on offer ... until now.

One of the Storm's most exciting front row forwards, Christian Welch, has pulled back the curtain on what separates his club from its NRL rivals.

After moving south from Brisbane, Welch went on to make his club debut with Melbourne's now-defunct Under 20s side, allowing him an early insight to their innovative take on player development.

Playing alongside a host of present-day NRL stars, he watched on as Australia and Queensland five-eighth Cameron Munster first blossomed under then Storm U20s coach Anthony Seibold.

"You've seen his running ability, but he's had to work really hard on his ball playing," Welch told the Talking with TK Podcast.

"It took him a while to get a feel of playing five-eighth [in the 20s]. He was killing it at fullback, but I think they wanted to put him at five-eighth so he could develop those skills.

"The way they view under 20s ... they're trying to develop them for first grade. It's not necessarily about winning an under 20s comp."

Welch then went on to speak about his unique, yet painful, introduction into the Storm's first-grade fraternity: The club's infamous preseason boot-camp.

"The first day, you're just physically flogged basically," he explained. "You don't have a name - you're just the colour team you're on and a number... and that's how you're referred to.

"The second night, you do this long walk - silent walk - and they say it's a race.

"For about three or four hours straight, you're doing this three-to-four kilometre walk and you're not allowed to speak to anyone. Then you have to stand guard until the sun comes up the next morning... for about four or five hours by yourself.

"You start seeing things and getting spooked ... you end up talking to yourself and going a bit crazy".

Not that Welch has any regrets.

"It builds camaraderie amongst the group because everyone at the Storm has done it, and once you've done it you become part of the club."

Armed with the experience of a first State of Origin appearance, Welch will head into his sixth NRL season more confident and prepared than ever.

And with Melbourne's perfect combination of culture, development and coaching in his corner, there is no reason why he and the Storm can't return to the NRL summit.

*Melbourne's 2007 and 2009 premierships were stripped by the NRL after their salary-cap cheating was exposed.

For the full interview visit Talking with TK Podcast