Watson opens up on Knights move
Roosters utility Connor Watson knew his chances of cementing a spot in the starting side next season were slim, so when the Knights offered him a three-year deal from 2018 onwards, he had no choice but to accept.
The 21-year-old has played a number of positions since making his NRL debut last season, and with his path seemingly blocked by a host of talented and more experienced teammates, Watson decided to head north where he will link up with fellow recruits Kalyn Ponga, Aidan Guerra and Tautau Moga.
The constant speculation surrounding whether he would stay or join a rival club started to take its toll on Watson who was relieved to finally sort out his future.
"I feel like it's been dragging on a bit for the past couple of months so it's been a bit of a distraction," he said on Wednesday morning.
"There have obviously been a few rumours about it but it's good to get that done now and I can just focus on playing for the Roosters now and hopefully go out on a high before I leave.
"I was actually alright with it, to be honest. I didn't worry about it too much. I just left it in my manager's hands; he did all the talking and the negotiations. My biggest role was just playing for the Roosters."
The biggest kicker for the 21-year-old was the opportunity to play five-eighth next season, something Knights coach Nathan Brown confirmed would be the case in his post-match address following Newcastle's win over the Dragons.
Watson's ability to play in the halves, at hooker, fullback or off the bench meant he was never able to lock down a position at the Roosters, but that shouldn't be an issue next season with the No.6 jersey his to lose.
"I think it just came down to the position for me. There was another club interested and they were looking at playing me in a different spot so I think for me it just came down to what position I wanted to play and I see myself as being a five-eighth," Watson said.
"At the Roosters, I actually haven't trained in the pre-season in one position so that's probably what I'm looking forward to the most is being able to go out there, train in one spot and try to improve as much as I can and be the best player that I can in that position."
Speaking to NRL.com back in February ahead of the Auckland Nines, Watson said he was more than happy to play the utility role in 2017. However, following news that James Tedesco had signed, coupled with the stellar form of Luke Keary, Mitchell Pearce and Jake Friend in key positions, the former Junior Kangaroo realised his path to the starting side was blocked.
Watson had some heart-to-heart chats with Roosters coach Trent Robinson about his future, with the pair agreeing that his best chance for a starting spot was elsewhere.
"They (the conversations with Robinson) were hard because the club's been so good to me and I love it [here]. I made my debut here last year and it's such a great place and all the people here are good so that was the hardest thing," he continued.
"The club has been so great to me for the last couple of years, but when we signed Tedesco [I realised that my path was blocked].
"When I re-signed last year, me and Robbo spoke about playing the utility role this year and I told him that I was happy to play that this year but I wanted to be in a starting spot next year (2018).
"I wanted to work into a position where I'd be starting next year and obviously with the new signings and the boys playing some great footy at the moment – Luke's playing really good, Mitchell's playing good and so is 'Friendy' – so it was hard for me to get in a position where I could start.
"Those players have five or six years left in their careers so it's a long time for me and I thought the opportunity is here for me now to go and I think I had to take it if I see myself being a starting player in the future."
Before he makes the move north, Watson's sole focus remains at Bondi where he hopes to be a part of the Roosters' first premiership since 2013.
The pocket rocket has made the most of his opportunity at fullback in recent weeks with veteran Michael Gordon currently sidelined with a pec injury, but once the goal-kicking custodian returns, Watson is keen to return to his bench utility role; a spot he believes suits the way the squad is structured.
"The last sort of month before Mick got injured, I was playing a bit of lock," he said.
"It's hard with Friendy because he's an 80-minute player, so when you're in games, it's hard to take him off because you might break the rhythm a bit. With the eight interchanges it makes it hard because you can't just bring him back on when things go a bit AWOL.
"Being able to put me on at lock has been good because I've just been playing as a roaming middle and it’s good because we've had a great forward pack who've been laying the platform for us."