Watson thrives in starting debut
Roosters five-eighth Connor Watson has made the most of his first start in the NRL, lessening the blow of a 32-20 loss to the Sharks by producing his best performance in first grade.
Watson started his first eight NRL games on the bench, but was thrust into the starting side on Monday night for the Allianz Stadium clash.
The Roosters' 2015 Holden Cup Player of the Year was at his electric best against the ladder leaders, scoring a try and setting up one with a sleight of hand generally associated with seasoned campaigners.
Watson finished the game with 151 metres – comfortably his best output this season – and looked comfortable calling the shots on the Roosters' left edge.
The Junior Kangaroos representative has been a mainstay for the Roosters since making his debut in Round 7, and his efforts on Monday night weren't lost on his coach.
"He just brings so much energy to the field," Trent Robinson said.
"There are errors around him – you could see off the kick-off that it wasn't a great pass to Dylan (Napa) – but you'll get that.
"It's incredible every time he plays [because] there is a huge amount of energy around him, he's strong, and he's attacking the line. He's a great guy who brings a lot of fun to a game. The guys like training with him."
Roosters skipper Jake Friend agreed with his coach's comments.
"He brings a buzz to training and on the field," Friend said.
"Tonight, I think he had the defensive line guessing a bit. You don't know if he's going to run or pass, and I think that led to a few of our tries out there on the edge."
Despite earning high praise from his coach and captain, Watson told NRL.com after the game that he felt his performance could best be summed up as being a "mixed bag."
"To start my first game is pretty big," he said.
"It's a bit different to coming off the bench because you sort of get to chill throughout the warm-up, but tonight I had to be on from the get-go. But I thought I had a bit of a mixed bag tonight.
"I thought I brought a lot of energy, which is a big part of my game. I speak to Robbo a lot about making sure that I'm there leading the boys around when they're tired, making sure that they can hear my voice to help them push through.
"I was a bit surprised that I went through and got that try. 'Pearcey' (Mitchell Pearce) gave me a bit of space with the ball and it allowed me to use my footwork and go through which was cool.
"But we let a few tries in on my edge which was disappointing. I let a soft inside shoulder go so I'll have to work hard on that this week."
The 20-year-old found out about his promotion to the starting side last week while in Canberra, and admitted it was a massive step-up in intensity.
"Starting the game is a bit tougher because everyone is fresh and going at each other as hard as they can," Watson said.
"If you come off the bench, the impact might be taken out of it a little bit. Being on the edge made it a bit easier for me to settle in compared to if I had to start out in the middle. I don't know how Jake Friend plays 80 minutes each week at hooker."
One of the biggest things for Watson has been the opportunity to learn from Andrew Johns, who has been working with the club's halves throughout the 2016 season.
"Pearcey and I actually went out and had a feed with 'Joey' the other day. He gave us a bit of feedback and some tips on how we should attack the Sharks," he said.
"He gave me a bit of feedback on my performance tonight. He thought I was at my best when I ran and simplified things, but pointed out a few errors when I was trying to do too much.
"It's great to be able to get advice like that from someone like him."
This article first appeared on NRL.COM