Christian Welch has pleaded with Melbourne fans to go easy on his teammate Brandon Smith, saying the hooker is fully committed to the Storm for the 2022 NRL season.
Smith made his return to Storm pre-season training on Tuesday, fronting Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy for the first time since his controversial podcast.
In the hour-long reveal the Kiwi Test star spoke of his desire to win a premiership with the Sydney Roosters - who he is set to join in 2023 - and also of the Storm's "massive drinking culture", which the club angrily denied.
His comments also upset Melbourne supporters with many calling for the 25-year-old to be traded for the final year of his contract.
Storm football manager Frank Ponissi denied the club was looking to offload Smith, and said although he had apologised Smith needed to prove his commitment to the club through the pre-season.
Welch did an east coast road trip from Brisbane with Smith en route to Melbourne and said he was convinced his teammate would give his all for the club in 2022.
"I know people are a bit, I suppose, disillusioned with Brandon at the moment, but he kind of just says things pretty quickly," Welch said on Tuesday.
"I know he's going to rip in for this team and is fully committed to our club and so I just ask all the fans and members ... I know you might be a bit upset with him at the moment but he's going to rip in and give us his all and we're going to have a great season ahead."
Star playmaker Cameron Munster was also among the last group of players to return to training following their NRL grand final loss.
Munster spent a month in a rehabilitation facility to deal with his "difficult relationship with alcohol" after he and Smith were photographed partying in a hotel room with white powder following the title decider.
The expectant father won the Storm's "yo-yo" fitness test, with Welch saying his Queensland Origin teammate looked in the best shape of his career.
"He looks really good, old 'Hermie' Munster - he's been smashing his training," Welch said.
"I think he's the lightest he's ever been and is really committed and is obviously making some really healthy choices."
Welch however couldn't resist a light-hearted dig at Munster, saying he had fooled the Storm.
"He's been sloppy his whole career, little mud-guts Munster, and now he comes back and actually does some training in the pre-season and he won that fitness test and everyone's calling him a hero.
"He's a five-eighth - that's what he should be doing - so he's fooled them all so well done to him."
Australian Associated Press
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