VERSATILE Connor Watson has no qualms about switching permanently to fullback if Knights coach Nathan Brown believes that is the best option for the team.
Watson joined Newcastle from the Roosters at the start of last season after being guaranteed a shot at playing five-eighth, only for groin and shoulder injuries to restrict him to just 15 games.
Brown is now pondering swapping Watson and his housemate Kalyn Ponga, who was a revelation in his debut year as Newcastle’s custodian, but also equally effective in the lone game he played at pivot.
By trading places, Ponga’s ball-playing and tactical kicking game would potentially have more scope to flourish, while Watson would be able to focus on his dynamic running game, which is his forte.
The 22-year-old said he would welcome the chance to play as Newcastle’s last line of defence.
“I’d definitely be more than happy to,” Watson said.
“I actually grew up playing fullback and it wasn’t until I was 17 or 18 and came down to the Roosters that I had to move, because Latrell [Mitchell] was playing fullback at the time.
“The Roosters thought I could turn into a six, and to be honest the two positions are pretty similar.
“Especially the footy we play at the Knights, I don’t think it will make too much difference if I went back there.
“It’ll probably just mean that I run the ball a bit more, which is my strength, so I’d be more than happy to do that.”
The former Central Coast junior has spent his off-season recovering from groin surgery and admitted his injury setbacks in 2018 had been a frustrating experience.
“It was probably the first year in footy I’ve had any real adversity, injury wise,” he said.
“Obviously I’ve had a few injuries before, but I’ve never missed so many games in one season.
“I only played 15 games, and in one of them I did my shoulder in the 10th minute, then in another I re-tore my groin in the 15th minute.
“So I really only managed 13 proper games, which in the scheme of things is not much footy at all.”
Watson, Ponga and skipper Mitchell Pearce managed to string only three games together simultaneously, and Newcastle fans can only hope their key playmakers get more chance next year to develop a combination.
“Unfortunately we didn’t spend much time on the field together last season, but it’s been good getting to know Kalyn properly and become really good mates with him,” Watson said.
“Living with him now, I think that will correlate for us on the field. And even Pearcey, as well, we’re all really close and hopefully we get to play together a lot more regularly next year.”
Watson said he had resumed running last week and was hoping to be back in full training by early December.
Meanwhile, the Knights are tipped to add journeyman prop James Gavet to their roster in the near future.
Gavet has played the past three seasons for the Warriors, after previous stints with Canterbury, Wests Tigers and Brisbane.
The 29-year-old Samoan international is understood to have asked the Warriors for a release and posted a photograph of himself on social media on Thursday outside Mount Smart Stadium, captioned “outta here”.
Newcastle’s interest in Gavet was first reported in the Herald two weeks ago. The Knights are also still regarded as favourites to sign Canterbury’s disgruntled Test prop David Klemmer.