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Robinson backs Watson's halves shift in Newcastle return

Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson has backed Connor Watson to find comfort in the familiar surrounds of McDonald Jones Stadium after being thrown into the halves for Thursday’s clash with the Knights.

Watson will play five-eighth alongside Luke Keary, with Joey Manu moving from centre to fullback after Sam Walker and James Tedesco suffered concussions in last week’s torrid loss to the Bulldogs.

Manu has previously played in the halves, however Tedesco’s absence and Dom Young’s suspension saw Robinson hand the No.1 jumper to the New Zealand international.

While Watson started 22 games in the No.6 jersey during his four years in Newcastle, he has largely played as a bench utility and hasn’t started a game at five-eighth since returning to the Roosters.

That changed at short notice last Friday night, with the 27-year-old thrown into five-eighth when Walker left the field in the first half.

Connor Watson Try

Robinson acknowledged Watson has faced a steep learning curve throughout the week but backed his playmaker to deliver in his return to Newcastle.

“Connor left here to go and play six at Newy,” Robinson said. “He went up there, he’s probably played six up on that ground more than he’s played it at training here.

“He’s been very versatile but he’s also really studied, he knows our system and his combination with [Keary] has been good. Communication is high with Connor and his effort is through the roof so there’s a couple of things that make a six and a running six for us.”

Backline reshuffles have become a regular occurrence for Robinson as he battles a steady stream of injuries to start the season.

Connor Watson is looking to lead the Roosters past his former team on Thursday night.
Connor Watson is looking to lead the Roosters past his former team on Thursday night. ©NRL Photos

The coach will take a cautious approach with Tedesco and Walker’s return as they progress through the concussion protocols.

The Roosters have been at the forefront of concussion management within the NRL and have been forced to navigate a series of high-profile cases.

Boyd Cordner was forced to retire after suffering multiple head knocks and Keary spent more than a month on the sidelines in 2022 following a concussion.

“I’ve probably learnt a more in the last year around concussion than any other time,” Robinson said. “A lot of people see concussion as one thing but we’ve done a lot of research.

“We’ve sent a doctor and physio over to Pittsburgh to spend some time with leading researchers over there around concussions and how to grade different concussions, with symptoms and all of those things. We feel like we’re in a really good spot compared to where a lot of judgement has been in the last few years and definitely where we’ve been.

“We’re more advanced to look after our players and within that Teddy’s been in a really good space. The day after the game when we were reviewing the game, he was clear on the conversations he had with the referee around the first captain’s challenge, around different discussions he had before he went off. That memory was quite clear and it is symptoms based so he’s on the right track.”

Acknowledgement of Country

Sydney Roosters respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.