KNIGHTS utility Connor Watson believes his move to lock this NRL season could take his game to the next level and he's excited for the challenge after a long road back from injury.
Watson has trained this pre-season for the No.13 role after splitting his time between sessions at lock and hooker before the previous campaign.
That season ended in round 11 for Watson, who ruptured his Achilles tendon against the Bulldogs.
The 24-year-old was tipped to make the starting forward pack this year ahead of Lachlan Fitzgibbon as the Knights looked to take advantage of rule changes last season that increased the speed of the game.
With Fitzgibbon now going to miss the opening rounds following shoulder surgery, Watson's place in the 13 appears even more likely.
"I guess a bit more ownership on me," Watson said of Fitzgibbon's setback.
"But I'm just excited. I'm not worried about anything else except just going out there and having some fun.
"It's been so long. I feel like this big break I've had from the game has probably been good for me because I've been able to realign my focus, see what I needed to work on, but then also realise how lucky I am.
"To be able to play the game I've grown up loving and played since I was six years old ... just look at it from that perspective and just go and have fun.
"It's a game at the end of the day, but I get to do it for a living, which is pretty cool."
His training load was eased last week because of ankle soreness but he was confident of playing the Storm in the Knights' NRL trial on Saturday at Albury.
"I got it jammed up in a tackle the other day so they were just being extra cautious with it, but until that point it's been really good," he said. "It's fine. With these big injuries they are a little bit careful with them but I've been in everything for a month. I'm feeling fit, I'm ready to go and I'm just excited to play footy again."
Watson said he was accustomed to training for lock after the previous pre-season "but this year it's all sort of been at the 13 role".
"I think there's a lot of potential and room for my game to go to the next level in that spot," he said.
"I feel like with the new rules, the game's getting faster and that's going to suit our team and it's going to suit my game and how I want to play.
"Essentially [training] is the same because for the past year and a half I've been playing hooker, so defending is the same, it's just the attacking stuff, which is probably a little less taxing at 13 because you don't have to be at every play-the-ball, so it's something I've really enjoyed and I feel it's going to be good for us as a team."
He has put on "a couple of kilos" to prepare for the role.
"I could play light in the middle but then you feel the bumps and bruises a bit more, especially if I'm going to be starting there," he said.
"With more contact, I think I needed to be a little bit bigger and the guys wanted me to be a bit bigger."
Watson's injury meant he missed out on the Knights' return to the finals after a seven-year absence last season.
He said the group was hungry for more.
"We obviously got a taste of finals football for the first time for the Knights in a long time, so everyone is hungry and they want to go do it again," he said.
"We just want to take it further and our goal is to win the comp."
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