Smith threw a tackle on Joe Ofahengaue in the first set of Saturday night’s game, his left arm hanging limply by his side.
He disappeared down the tunnel after just three minutes while Welch took the same route just before full time, escorted by two coaches amid fears he had done his Achilles.
If so, it could be the end of the season.
A distraught Smith eventually returned to the sidelines holding his head in his right hand with his left arm in a sling.
He will have scans on Sunday to determine the extent of his injury and is expected to be out for three to six weeks.
The Storm, already without Grant, Cameron Munster and Jesse Bromwich, dragged on for most of the night before an inspired Jarome Hughes comeback killed off the brave Tigers.
The Storm bring Grant back from suspension next week, but Smith’s absence is a blow.
Hughes scored a try and broke for Xavier Coates, on his 21st birthday, to put his team ahead for the first time with a try 13 minutes from time.
A four-point fire from Reimis Smith sealed the game.
The Storm will get a glimpse of life without Brandon Smith over the next month as the superstar recovers from a fractured hand.
Melbourne have plenty of depth, but they will feel the loss of Smith, Jennings and Welch, the latter two with suspected ACL and Achilles injuries.
“Achilles injuries are hard to recover from, they’re one of the hardest to recover from, they’re up there with ACLs, that’s how hard they are,” Cooper Cronk said.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy will lose Smith to the Roosters next season but now he has to deal with the issue to replace him 12 months early.
“It’s killing us (those injuries),” Bellamy said.
“Our ruck was kind of decimated. If someone had told me that we would face Alec (MacDonald) in the first pre-season game of the year – a kid under 20 and who hadn’t played in a Cup game Queensland – I would have said you’re crazy.”
Smith will play this year with Harry Grant at hooker and Bellamy has some options there, but NRL great Mick Ennis stressed it was still a significant loss.
“It’s hard to find a tougher player in the NRL than Brandon Smith, that’s a blow,” Ennis said.
“Whether Harry Grant comes back next week or not when Brandon Smith is in that footy side, they’re a different footy side, he brings incredible energy and tenacity.”
Fellow Kiwi Nelson Asofa-Solomona will replace Welch, while options for lockdown are Josh King and young gun Alec McDonald, who made his debut against the Tigers.
“When you have so many stars out…your stars have to come up. And when you come off the bench you have to make a difference. The Asofa-Solomona injection made a difference,” Mick Ennis said on Saturday. evening.
Asofa-Solomona nearly quit the Storm over his controversial stance on vaccinations, but the club worked with him and secured a government exemption to play in a move that has now proven crucial.
“It’s easy to forget that he didn’t return to training until February,” Fox League reporter Jake Duke said.
“The Storm have worked really hard to get him that bye to get him back in the game, and he’s already had a huge impact, showing how valuable he is on this side.
“He was almost not there, and with guys like Jesse Bromwich missing, and some of the guys they will miss next year, that guy will be a huge factor for the Storm this year and for years to come. “
Cameron Munster returns this week which will likely see Nick Meaney move to the wing as Jenning’s replacement, while young guns Will Warbrick and Dean Leremia are also options.
Fox League commentator Dan Ginnane summed it up nicely after the game: “What’s on your mind, Craig Bellamy? No joy on this man’s face. It’s two points, but it’s expensive.
HUGHES MAKES STATEMENT AMID CONTRACT TALKS
Jahrome Hughes has shown the club he’s worth the $5million contract upgrade he’s chasing with another masterclass performance.
Hughes wants a club-record six-year contract extension to stay at the club instead of joining Wayne Bennett at the Dolphins.
The 27-year-old’s management are meeting with Melbourne bosses this month in a bid to cement his long-term future at the club,
“What a player. What a season he had last year; rose to the highest echelon of halfbacks in this competition,” Ennis said.
Hughes is widely regarded as the most dangerous half-back in the NRL and his signing would be a major blow for the Dolphins.
The Kiwi is set to become a free agent from November 1 this year after choosing not to trigger the option in his favor for the 2024 season.
” This is remarkable. He only had two full seasons at halfback. He was in the desert,” Fox League commentator Dan Ginnane said.
“He was playing a little bit back for the Storm, then Craig Bellamy made the decision at the end of 2019 – he bit the bullet and put that man in shirt 7, and the rest is history.”
There are fears in Melbourne that Bennett is set to poach another of their stars, with the Dolphins having already signed Felise Kaufusi and the Bromwich brothers – Jesse and Kenny.
“Jahrome Hughes, such a superstar. They are already talking about his next contract. He wants to stay at the Melbourne Storm long-term, looking for a possible six-year contract. But it’s no surprise that Wayne Bennett is supposed to be interested in him at the Dolphins,” Fox League reporter Jake Duke said.
SILVER LININGS AS TIGERS DISCOVER THEIR CLAWS
Michael Maguire enters the 2022 season as the bookmakers’ favorite to be the first manager to be sacked, but he’s going nowhere – yet.
The Tigers were committed and brave although they ultimately narrowly failed to continue a first round full of upsets.
The home side came into the game as ranked underdogs but were level with Melbourne until the Storm put their foot down in the final 20 minutes.
First-half tries from wingers Ken Maumalo and David Nofoaluma helped the Tigers take a 10-4 halftime lead, earning them a standing ovation from their hard-to-please fans.
They were back on their feet just three minutes after the break after Maumalo’s second try, with the big No.5 hovering over Smith to fire a cross kick from Luke Brooks.
He thought he had a third via the same source, only to be held over the line by a desperate Melbourne defense with scores locked at 16-all.
“There would be a lot to take away positively from the game for the Tigers,” Benji Marshall said.
“Madge won’t be happy, they’re in the business of winning and they had the opportunity to win this game.
“The moment you start accepting losses as acceptable is not a good start, they won’t be happy about that.
“There were a lot of positives in the game, I think they really tried their hearts out, they competed really well and that’s what Tigers fans want to see is that they compete.”
Cooper Cronk added: “Benji is right at 14-4, they should have won with Melbourne injuries, they should have won.