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Sydney Roosters utility Connor Watson has described his Origin selection for NSW as a “dream come true” after missing the entire 2023 season with a knee injury and starting this year in reserve grade.

Watson, who can cover the halves, hooker, fullback, centre and lock, will make his Origen debut at the MCG on June 26 after Blues coach Michael Maguire made five changes from the team beaten 38-10 in the series opener.

The 28-year-old was named on the interchange bench in place of second-rower Hudson Young, with the other new faces being:

  • Dylan Edwards
  • Latrell Mitchell
  • Mitchell Moses
  • Cameron Murray

In case you needed a reminder of what Latrell Mitchell brings to Origin

Edwards has been given a second chance to make his NSW debut after being named at fullback for Origin I but was ruled out with a quad injury at training and replaced by former captain James Tedesco.

Mitchell was recalled for the suspended Joseph Sua’ali’i at left centre after regaining top form in recent weeks, while Murray – his Rabbitohs captain – missed Origin I due to a hip flexor injury. Murray replaces Cameron McInnes at lock.

Moses was also unavailable for the series opener after breaking his foot but the Eels halfback, who played in last year’s series, return in place of Nicho Hynes.

Origin Audition: Mitchell Moses

However, Watson is the feel-good selection in the squad named on Sunday night after tearing the patella tendon in his left knee in a training mishap during the 2023 pre-season.

Off contract and unable to play a match last season, there were doubts about Watson’s NRL future and after eventually being re-signed by the Roosters he started this season in the NSW Cup.

“It's a dream come true. For me it's always a goal and as a kid, I always dreamed of you want to play NRL, and you want to play Origin, and you also want to win a comp. They’re the big three,” Watson told 2GB.

After just being happy to be back playing, Connor Watson has been chosen for NSW
After just being happy to be back playing, Connor Watson has been chosen for NSW ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

“When I started the year it was still a goal, but it probably seemed so far away - especially when I started playing reserve grade, but my mentality was like, ‘you'd missed a whole year of footy so let’s just enjoy going back to reserve grade, getting that match fitness and just finding that love for the game again.

“I've just been really enjoying being back out there playing footy, I missed a lot of footy last year. I didn't get to play a game, so for me just getting back out there and playing footy has been the best thing."

Watson targets Origin dream

It is understood Watson was being seriously considered for selection in Origin I until he suffered a throat injury, and he returned last weekend against the Eels at hooker.

Since his recall to first grade in Round 3, the Central Coast product has played five-eighth, lock and hooker, while Roosters coach Trent Robinson considered using him in the centres after the suspension of Sua’ali’i.

At the start of his NRL career in 2016 Watson wanted to secure a regular position and he spent four years at the Knights before returning to the Roosters in 2022.

However, Watson is now happy to perform the utility role and it has earned him his first Origin jersey.

“I think nowadays I'm comfortable with being that utility player, but my first preference is probably to play13 and nine, in the same game, to be honest,” he said.

“I've really enjoyed that but if I’ve had to play six, I’ve really enjoyed doing that this year and I’ve played a fair bit of footy at one so it’s just sort of wherever the team needs me.

“When you go through those times, and you are not playing, you forget how fun it is and that’s why you started playing as a kid because of how fun it is and how goo good it is competing and winning with your mates.

“Just getting the love for that was one of the big things and then putting some back-to-back performance together and not worrying about selections or anything too far ahead, but just more to enjoy the process and the day to day of playing again.”

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.