In my hands: New recruit Connor Watson says the ball is in his court to nail down the five-eighth spot outside Mitchell Pearce at the Newcastle Knights this season. Picture: Marina Neil
TALK toConnor Watson about nailing down a spot in the halves with the Knightsand he doesn’t hide from the reality.
“Those first few games –they are make or break in many ways,”the former Roosters utility says.
“I need to hit the ground running. But competition –that’s what footy is about isn’t it?It brings out the best in people and I’d like to think it will be the same for me.”
Much has already been made of the promise made to Watson when he signed with the club about getting first crack at five-eighth.
It was neveran issue until Mitchell Pearce inadvertently made it one.
Pearce’s surprisesigning suddenly leftWatson dueling with emerging local talent Brock Lamb for the other halves spot.
And while coach Nathan Brown’s “first crack” guarantee to Watson stands, there are plenty of Lamb admirersasking for how long.
To his credit, Watson sees the Lamb challenge as a positive.
“I’ve been competing for positions my whole life,” he says.
“The biggest thing for me in coming up here to the Knights was the opportunity to nail down a position.
“I spoke to Ivan [coach Cleary] when I was looking at going to the Tigers and he wanted to play me at fullback.
“It’s a position I grew up playing butI think the way I’ve sort of transitioned the last couple of years, I really see a future for myself in the halves.
“Obviously I’ve got the utility value where I can play fullback or hooker if needed but I want to nail down the number six spot.
“I’ll get that chance but you never take anything for granted and I know I have to get it right pretty quickly.’
Having ex-Roosters teammate Pearce inside him should help with the pair having played as many as 10 NRL games together in the halves back in 2016 before Luke Keary’s arrival.
The theory is Pearce will steer the Knights around the park, allowingWatson thelicence to utilise his natural running game.
Ask coach Brown how confident is he of Watson making the transition a fulltime gig andhe says:
“We are going to play a style that will suit Connorand that’s the key to it,”he said.
“He’s working really hard on his game at training and a big thing is he’sgot pace andis a great competitor. He has a certain skill-set and we’ll play to his strengths.”
Watson says two high quality trials against Melbournein a week’s time in Melbourne and Parramatta at Maitland on February 24 will give the cluba great gauge of where he and the team is at.
“They will be good tests for us,”Watson said.