DURING his formative years, Connor Watson spent his pocket money buying every Newcastle Knights jersey. Now he is going to be paid handsomely to wear one.
After his first training session with Newcastle, the former Sydney Roosters utility back admitted there was something special about realising a childhood ambition.
“The day I started supporting them was the day of the 2001 grand final, when they won,” he recalled. “We were going down on the train and all my family were going for Parramatta and I said, no … I’m going for the Knights, and they ended up winning.
“So I’ve grown up with all the jerseys and everything, so it’s been really cool.
“I’ve always dreamed, since I was a kid, of playing for the Knights. To get the opportunity will be really awesome.”
The 21-year-old dynamo, who has appeared in 38 top-grade games for the Roosters over the past two seasons and was player of the tournament at the 2017 Auckland Nines, has signed a four-year deal with Newcastle.
“There’s a lot of things make up your decision when you sign for a club,” he said.
“There’s all those external things. But for me, it was about where I would be able to take the next step for my career and play my best footy.”
While a host of other big names rejected offers from the three-time wooden spooners, the Central Coast junior welcomed the challenge of helping the Knights to rebuild.
“I’m really excited, to be honest,” he said. “Obviously the Roosters are a great club, always very successful and you’ve seen in the last couple of weeks, they always sign the best players.
“But I think the Knights are really doing some great things here … I could have stayed at the Roosters and kept playing off the bench, and not playing so many minutes, but for me the biggest thing was about the opportunity here and that’s why I’ve come here.”
Still recovering from a recent tonsillectomy, Watson is virtually certain to start next season as Newcastle’s five-eighth, leaving Brock Lamb and Trent Hodkinson competing for the No.7 jersey.
“There’s no guarantees in rugby league but I’ve just got to train my best and hopefully that’s where I’m playing in round one,” Watson said.
With fellow ex-Roosters Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Aidan Guerra also at Newcastle, Watson said he would welcome another former teammate, Mitchell Pearce, if the disgruntled halfback was to seek a release.
“It’d be good,” he said.
“He’s a world-class player, Pearcey. He’s played 12 years of first grade, nearly 250 games, won a comp, played Origin. He’d be an awesome acquisition.”