Connor Watson, Sydney Roosters, Trent Robinson, contract, Kalyn Ponga, Newcastle Knights

Roosters recruit Connor Watson has opened up on the tough decision to leave the Knights to return to his first NRL club and the utility role that has transformed his rugby league career.

Watson left the Knights last season and turned down interest from the Super League to reunite with the Roosters after some conversations with Trent Robinson, who was a massive factor in his club switch.

“It was a really difficult decision to leave Newcastle,” Watson told reporters on Wednesday.

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“I have some really great mates there. I lived with Kalyn (Ponga) for three years and Tex Hoy was with us for a year.

“I had a podcast with Crokes and grew up with some of the other guys so it was a really connected group.

“I really enjoyed my time in Newcastle and I loved playing for the Knights. It was always a goal of mine as a kid to play for Newcastle an play in a great town that really loves its footy and has some really great supporters.

“I just felt like for me to take my career to the next level I needed a change of scenery and get out of my comfort zone and really challenge myself.

“As much as it was a hard decision to make to leave all of those great things behind, this is one that I felt I had to do so I had to be selfish from that point of view.”

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Former teammates and housemates Kalyn Ponga and Connor Watson.Source: Supplied

Robinson recently re-signed with the Roosters on a five-year contract extension and Watson revealed the major role he has played in his career to date even when he was at Newcastle.

“I always had a really good relationship with Robbo when I was here,” Watson said.

“Then we were weighing up my options last year and I just reached out to him for a bit of advice and his opinion.

“He has coached over in the Super League and there was a little bit of thoughts of going over there.

“But after having a conversation with him and reflecting on it myself I realized it was too early in my career to do that.

“Robbo and I stayed in touch and eventually he asked if I was keen to come back to the Roosters and I had to jump at an opportunity like that.”

It is clear why Robinson is so revered and respected by his players when talking to Watson about his relationship with the master mentor.

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Trent Robinson played a massive role in bringing Connor Watson back to the club.Source: Supplied

“Having those conversations with him he said I do this for all my ex-players,” Watson said of Robinson.

“There is not really anyone that leaves the Roosters that doesn’t have a good relationship with him.

“All the guys that have moved on he is always there to lend advice because I feel like he has got not just a rugby league perspective, but a world view on things and he is really understanding of people, different dynamics and cultures as well.

“As good as a job as he does in making you a better football player, he puts as much time and effort into making you a better man.

“He not only does things to make you a better player on the field but a better person off it.”

The 25-year-old revealed he is targeting the hooker and lock roles at the Roosters, but is excited to be the “Mr Fix It” side and help out where he can in the utility role.

“The No.9 and No.13 role is probably option one,” Watson said.

Connor Watson is targeting the hooker and lock roles at the Roosters.Source: Supplied

“But as we have seen in the last couple of years in rugby league there are injuries that happen in every spot so I am focused on those two spots and then if there is an injury at No.6 or No.7, No.1 , centers, front row, whatever it is I will jump in there.

“This pre-season I have spent a lot of time in all those spots and as we get closer to Round 1 I have been focused on hooker and lock. I had to nail those roles pretty early in the pre-season so I am ready to go when I’m needed. ”

Watson was glad to put his poor recent run with injuries behind him last year and revealed just what he loves about the utility role that brings so much enjoyment in the modern game.

“I think last year was big for me in finding my love for the game again,” Watson said.

“Just from the fact of injuries. I had a few injuries the years before and I was getting a bit frustrated.

“It was just nice to play every game last year and I felt like I really started to find my feet and I actually played footy that I knew I was capable of but I always felt like I was being held back a bit with getting injured.

“Utility has become a really important position and it is actually so fun and exciting all the time because there is a new challenge.

“My role is hooker and lock which I really enjoy, but if I get chucked into the halves or fullback it is something different and something you have to adapt to and roll with and see if you are capable of it.

Connor Watson last played for the Roosters in 2017.Source: Getty Images

“It is a really big test to be able to go and play in all those positions and play well so I like the challenge of it.”

No doubt with Covid still to be a factor this season, Watson could bob up all over the Roosters backline and in the pack and it is a role he relishes.

“It is definitely an important position given the way the game is going and the way the world is at the moment,” Watson said.

“I had examples last year where I was playing lock and then in the captain’s run Kurt Mann got injured and then alright Connor, you have got to play five-eighth, so it is good to have guys with utility value in the squads.

“You need it nowadays with all these unforeseen things that keep popping up.”

A huge factor in his decision to return to the Tri-colors was the chance to chase premiership glory.

Watson missed the Roosters last two premiership wins in 2018 and 2019, while he was with the Knights and winning a title at such a proud club is a massive motivation for him.

“I feel like this is the best place for me to come and take my game to the next level,” Watson said.

Watson has become the ideal modern rugby league utility.Source: Getty Images

“I wanted to challenge myself and part of that is the expectations and reputation of the Roosters.

“You have got to come here and you have got to perform and play well here and you have to leave it all out there.

“That is a part of it that really excites me and I’m looking forward to this year.”

The now veteran of 104 NRL games has battled a knee injury in the pre-season, but revealed he is close to full fitness in time to be selected in Round 1.

“My knee is sweet,” Watson said.

“I missed the trial games with it, but I did it a month ago and I got through training all good this week.

‘I have got one more session tomorrow (Thursday) and then if I get through that unscathed we are on.’

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Initially Watson returned to a halfway house of sorts, but revealed he is starting to feel at home after moving into Dylan Napa’s old place while he is playing in the Super League.

“I moved into a new place in January,” Watson said.

“It sort of felt pre-Christmas that I wasn’t really living here. I had some mates that rented me their apartment, which was fully furnished and still had their clothes in it. So it still felt like I was staying at a mate’s place for the first part of the pre-season.

“I actually moved into Dylan Napa’s pad because he has gone over to France which is good. I’ve just jumped in there for the next year and it is starting to feel like home there.

“As soon as I came back here it was so weird because it felt like I hadn’t left, but it did feel different at the same time.

“It is just because Robbo is here. All the same support staff are here and there are some new faces in the playing and coaching staff as well. ”

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