Ian Watson describes Kris Welham as “one of the most underrated players” in the game today.
Welham, 32, has enjoyed a career many would envy. Both a Challenge Cup Finalist (with Hull KR in 2015) and a Grand Finalist (with Salford in 2019), he has played on the biggest stages. Individually, he is widely regarded as an unsung hero by his peers.
Having made his Super League debut for Hull Kingston Rovers in 2007, during the last decade, the centre has Super League’s 17th highest scorer, notching 97 tries in the last ten seasons. That doesn’t include a 30-try haul amassed during a solitary season in the Championship with Bradford.
Yet despite all that, Watson believes the centre is chronically undervalued by pundits and spectators.
As for the man himself, he admits the lack of appreciation once bothered him. But now, he’s come to be content with the recognition of his team-mates and coach.
“I’m proud of the fact he said that,” Welham said of Watson’s praise.
“It makes me feel wanted and appreciated. Since I’ve been at Salford I’ve played my best rugby ever, maybe not from a try-scoring standpoint but in terms of consistency, and it’s nice to know the boys and Watto think that. In video I get a lot of praise from the boys and it’s nice.
“When I was younger it would bother me. I’d play a few good games and then one bad one and the fans would be on my back. But I’ve played the game a long time and it’s water off a duck’s back now. If I can do my job every week consistently, then I’m happy.”
Welham is under no doubt why he has produced his best form during his 30s.
“He’s been a great coach. He tells me what he wants and expects. And being older and concentrating on myself and my own job helps too. If I can do that, and the boys do their bit, it will all come together.”
Welham is now preparing for life after rugby. He recently passed exams that will allow him to pursue a career in pest control, and he expects to work with his father-in-law when he retires from rugby.
However, he has no plans to hang the boots up yet and hopes to extend his stay at Salford.
“It’s my last contracted year at Salford. I know Watto speaks highly of me, so whether he’s interested in me staying here we’ll have to see.
“I’ll have to make that transition into the real world soon, but I love it at Salford. Watto has been one of the best coaches and leaders I’ve had. I’d love to stay and I think I’m still playing well and fit, but I’m at that time and age when Rugby League players start to deteriorate. But the body still feels like I’m 20! There’s nothing wrong with the body, it’s whether anyone wants it.”