Watson embraces utility role at Newcastle

Connor Watson is accepting his utility value for NRL club Newcastle under new coach Adam O'Brien.
Connor Watson is accepting his utility value for NRL club Newcastle under new coach Adam O'Brien.

Utility is no longer a dirty word for Newcastle's Connor Watson.

While Watson believed he played his best footy at hooker for the Knights, the 23-year-old claimed he was now comfortable with coming off the bench if that suited new coach Adam O'Brien in the 2020 NRL season.

Off-contract Watson admitted he was initially trying to find his feet under O'Brien after training "everywhere" in the pre-season and playing hooker, five-eighth, fullback and off the bench for the Knights in 2019.

At first Watson thought his versatility was a curse.

Now he believes it is a blessing after some pre-season soul searching.

"The biggest thing for me is that I probably looked at my utility value as a negative thing when I was younger just because I wanted to go into first grade and cement a starting position," he said.

"I was probably in a bit of a rush to be honest. I have got to step back and look at where I am in my life and what I get to do every day for a job.

"I want to play first grade and whether that is in a starting position or off the bench I am still happy to do that."

Watson may have done enough to earn selection for the Indigenous outfit in Saturday's NRL All Stars clash with the Maori on the Gold Coast but his starting options at Newcastle appear limited this season.

NRL superstar Kalyn Ponga is a lock at No.1, Kurt Mann and Mason Lino appear in the mix for five-eighth while Jayden Brailey is set to get first crack at hooker after arriving from Cronulla.

And Watson is at peace with that.

"I guess every player wants to be starting. It is about changing the mindset around it," he said.

"I enjoy playing different positions. I enjoy playing football. I just like being out there and being a part of it.

"If that (utility) is the role Adam wants me to do then I am going to do it."

Watson's positive outlook extends to his Knights contract talks.

"I think it (new contract) is probably not going to get done before round one...(but) it will happen in the early rounds of the year," he said.

Australian Associated Press