It’s been a whirlwind month of Rugby League for Wyong Roos and Sydney Roosters half Connor Watson, but the 19-year-old remains focused on displaying continuity on the field.
The Dubbo-born, Central Coast-raised teenager has had the unique achievement of playing three different grades in the space of a month; after a strong start for the Roosters’ Holden Cup outfit Watson earned his NRL debut in Round 7, before making a maiden appearance for the Roos in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW last night. With limited game time at NRL level, those four weeks have been a challenge for the young prospect – but most importantly, he’s enjoyed every minute.
“It’s a bit different, trying to get the new combinations with everyone that I play with,” Watson told NSWRL.com.au. “Today was my (Wyong Roos) debut so it was a bit of a different experience – pretty physical and I got a few shots around the head – but I enjoyed it.
“It was good to play a full game of footy again, towards the back end I got a few cramps and I was blowing, but it was good fun.”
Emerging players often talk of the difference in physicality between the Holden Cup, Intrust Super Premiership NSW and NRL, which has been all too evident for Watson. Starring for the high-flying Roosters under-20s early in the year – the team was undefeated throughout the opening six rounds – Watson soon found himself coming off the bench in an NRL side running last. When the long-awaited return of star halfback Mitchell Pearce forced the Kincumber Colts junior out of the top grade, head coach Trent Robinson and assistant Steve McNamara thought Wyong could be the next step in his development – but Watson is still unsure which grade he’ll be settling in to.
“I’m not sure yet, that’s sort of the club’s decision,” Watson said. “We had a chat this week and it was either go back to the ‘20s or play tonight, but they thought it would be better for me to play against the big boys and get used to the physical nature of the cup and first grade.
“That’s probably just down to ‘Robbo’ (Robinson) and ‘Mac’ (McNamara) and just see what they want, but I’m happy playing wherever – as long as I’m enjoying my footy.”
Watson was a late inclusion for the Wyong side on Saturday night, but handled the expectation brilliantly; the Roos saw off a low-scoring first half to put on a healthy display in the second, including a fantastic break from their crafty five-eighth. It was a good indicator of the form Watson has been in this year, which has tonight earned him a place in the Junior Kangaroos squad to take on the Junior Kiwis next weekend. With a taste of all three competitions, however, Watson is realistic about the areas that he still needs to work on.
“I’m sort of still new to the position in the halves – I was playing fullback until sort of last year and the year before that – so I guess for me, just working on my game management,” Watson said. “I thought I did that all right tonight, to just be able to put the game away, but that’s probably my area that I need to work on more.”
Back under the tutelage of Sydney Roosters assistant and Junior Kangaroos coach Justin Holbrook, Watson now has the honour of representing his country – and will no doubt call on his recent experience to impress from the bench next Saturday.
The Intrust Super Premiership NSW is the NSWRL’s blue-ribbon open-age competition and a vital feeder system for the NRL and the NSW VB Blues. Following the Intrust Super Premiership NSW on Facebook, on Twitter and by using the #IntrustSuperPremiership hashtag. For all the latest on the Intrust Super Premiership NSW, stay locked on www.NSWRL.com.au.