Falcons legend Will Welch to retire at end of season

Wednesday 12 April 2023 Written by: Adam

The 33-year-old sits joint-second on the Falcons’ all-time appearance list, having done battle on 275 occasions.

Speaking on the announcement he said: “It’s meant the world to me for me to play for the team I used to come and watch when I was a kid.

“From being in the Falcons academy, signing professionally as a teenager and going on to spend my whole career here – the whole thing has just been a dream.”

The former RGS Newcastle pupil made his first-team debut as an 18-year-old in October 2008 and became the Falcons’ youngest ever captain when he took over the reins at the age of just 22.

Leading the club to promotion and forming the cornerstone of the Falcons’ pack for well over a decade, Welch explained his decision, saying: “I’ve had an ankle issue for the past couple of seasons which has been niggling me every week, and I just needed to get it sorted.

“It’s a six-month recovery which unfortunately takes me past the end of this season, but on the positive side it will fix it for life after rugby. I’ll at least be able to run around with my kids, and I’m retiring on my own terms.

“I’ve been thinking about retirement for a little while now, and it was probably going to come at some point in the near future anyway with the way my ankle was. Coupled with the fact I have a career opportunity outside of rugby, it just feels like the right time.

“I could potentially have tried to hold on for another year, but I don’t want to do it that way. This decision just means I’m doing it on my own terms and I know this is my last season, rather than having it forced upon me.”

Welch added: “I spoke to a number of people who have already retired from rugby, and a lot of them just had that moment where they were like ‘that’s me, I’m done’.

“It was similar for me, to be honest, and there was just a point where I knew it was the right call. I’m happy with my decision, I’ve loved my time here and now I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my life.

“Doing something fresh and different is a new challenge for me, and I’m excited about that. I’m doing my finance exams at the moment with a view to taking a job after that. I’ve had the chance to plan for this, and it’s much better that way rather than being pushed out or having an injury make the decision for me.”

Newcastle Falcons chairman Semore Kurdi said: “Will retires as a true Newcastle Falcons great, and it has been an absolute privilege to have him with us for well over a decade.

“He is somebody who always put the team before individual gain, he gave absolutely everything on the field and the work he did behind the scenes as club captain was outstanding.

“He epitomises everything we are about as a club, and I wish him every success once his time with us comes to an end. Hopefully we’ll still have the pleasure of having him on site for game days with his family, and he’ll continue to be part of the club in a different way.”

Welch is tied in second with Tom May on 275 appearances for the Falcons, with the pair both 12 behind former prop and current forwards coach Micky Ward.

“It’s not something that has been on my radar, to be honest,” said Welch.

“Yeah, it would have been nice to have that record but I didn’t want to hang around just because of it, and you can’t argue with Wardy holding on to the top spot. He’s a club icon, and I’m more than happy to be second to him on that list.”

The flanker hopes to remain in Newcastle where he and his wife Laura have two sons, Rex and Max, with Welch explaining: “I won’t miss battering my body on a weekend but I’ll miss the rest of it, and I’m thankful for the opportunities I’ve had throughout my time with the Falcons.

“It’s meant a massive amount to me. I’ve loved playing for the club, and I’ve had loads of great experiences along the way. Our supporters have always been brilliant in getting behind me and the team, and I’d like to say a massive thank you for all the love they’ve shown.

“It’s been a rollercoaster journey at times, but one that I’ve enjoyed. I always wanted to be there for the club and help them through those difficult situations, but the support from my team-mates and the staff at the club has always been great. There’s a good bunch of us came through around the same time with the likes of Alex Tait and Mark Wilson, and we all share the same feeling around how much the club means to us.

“North East sports fans are well known for their passion and support, and it’s been no different with the Falcons. I think we punch above our weight in terms of the atmosphere our supporters create, and that’s been a massive thing throughout my time with the club.

“It’s hard to pick out highlights because so much has happened, but I loved the first game we played at St James’ Park. We had a good win over Northampton in front of more than 30,000 supporters, and as a Newcastle United fan that whole day was just unreal.

“Rather than the games themselves the main thing I look back on is the people you meet along the way, and the times you have together. A lot of the time it’s the off-field stuff rather than the games, and I’ve made some incredible mates.”

It has also been confirmed that Will Welch will have a testimonial year, details of which will be announced in due course.