Roosters utility no stranger to fullback
Young Roosters utility Connor Watson's professional effort slotting in at fullback for the injured Latrell Mitchell on Sunday should come as no surprise given the 19-year-old's history in the position.
Although Watson has spent the past few years evolving as a half he spent much of his junior career as a fullback and the product of the Knox Grammar rugby system says neither he nor the club is yet sure what his best position is.
The gritty 32-18 win over Wests Tigers at a swamped Allianz Stadium was also Watson's first win at NRL level at the fourth attempt – an occasion he marked with his first try in the top grade.
Speaking to NRL.com after the game, he said he was just delighted to be in first grade so early on in his development.
"It's something I've dreamt of my whole life since I was a little kid so to be able to do that (score an NRL try in a team win) was something special," Watson said.
He acknowledged the shift to fullback once Mitchell came from the field right before half-time was "a little bit of a challenge" but nothing too unfamiliar.
"I haven't played [fullback] before at first grade level but I grew up playing there. I've been training there a little bit so I could cover if anything happens like it did [on Sunday]."
Watson played league primarily from the ages of six to 16 until an Australian Institute of Sport scholarship to Knox Grammar saw him finish high school playing rugby union, where he started as an outside centre (transitioning from a league fullback) before moving into a playmaking fly-half role which he has continued on at the Roosters training at five-eighth.
Despite getting a run with the top squad in the pre-season Auckland Nines, to have played four NRL games after 13 rounds at the age of just 19 is something Watson describes as a surreal feeling.
"It's been a bit of a whirlwind. I came into the year, I did the NRL pre-season, I didn't know if I'd get a game this year. I thought maybe I might have been a chance around the Origin period but to be able to play is massive, I can't really describe it," Watson said.
"I played over in the Nines. I guess that was a good stepping stone for me to be able to prove to myself that I could compete at that level.
"At the moment being a 19-year-old I'm just enjoying all the game time I can get but in the future I want to cement a position. I don't even think the club is sure of what that is yet but I feel comfortable playing hooker, in the halves, fullback. I've played the last two years in the halves so probably there at the moment."
Watson extended his Roosters deal last year to keep him at Bondi through the end of 2017 so any decision on his playing future can be taken further down the track, allowing him to focus purely on his development at the moment.
"I love the club here and definitely want to stay here. I didn't think I'd be getting a run this early!" he laughed.
"I sat down one day with 'Robbo' (coach Trent Robinson) and he asked me a few questions about where I'd like to play in the future and stuff like that but his main message for me is to come on and bring energy and that's something I've been trying to do when I come onto the field."