Joey Inspiration Behind Watson Hail Mary
Connor Watson was still in nappies when Andrew Johns went blind-side for Darren Albert to score the match-winning try in the 1997 ARL Grand Final but as a Knights fan that moment is imprinted on his subconscious.
Watson's decision to ignore the vast expanse of Eden Park and instead dart back left to a short blind-side on the final play of the game created the opportunity for Bernard Lewis to run 80 metres and score untouched, propelling the Roosters into the Downer NRL Auckland Nines final against the Panthers with a 21-16 win over the Storm in the semi-final.
It's been 20 years since Johns sparked wild scenes in the stands and back in Newcastle with his daring last-minute play, a moment 21-year-old Watson has come to cherish over time.
"In 1997 I was one year old but I grew up a Knights fan so I watched that game plenty of times," Watson told NRL.com.
"Where the kick landed I was in the corner and I looked up and I just saw that the winger was in a little bit.
"I thought if I could get across he might come in and bite and he looked back there and he came in a bit so my winger was open. I knew Bernie had the speed, he's a quick kid, and he took it.
"I played a bit with him in the under-20s at the start of last year and he's a special talent. He scores the grouse tries."
With a game to go Watson was one of the leading contenders to be crowned Player of the Tournament and should earn selection in the Team of the Tournament at the very least.
The energetic utility, who has spent the majority of his junior career in the halves, is fighting to earn a bench spot for the Roosters' Round 1 clash with the Titans but hopes he and other young members of the Nines squad can push for regular NRL football in 2017.
"Every time you pull on the Roosters jersey you just want to do your team proud and do your mates proud and that's the main thing for me," he said.
"Just trying to build some confidence in my teammates and for them to do the same for us. So we can go into this year and we can take the confidence from this tournament against other first grade sides and use it in the NRL."
This article first appeared on NRL.com