Watson goes from bench to Blue after 558-day hiatus from the NRL


Connor Watson has admitted his shock at going from being sidelined by injuries to the NSW State of Origin frame, with the utility called in to debut in Melbourne.

Watson has emerged as Michael Maguire’s preferred utility option on the bench, leapfrogging Matt Burton to go straight into the Blues’ team.

In Watson, Maguire has a man who can play anywhere from centre to lock, while also being able to fill in anywhere in the spine.

Connor Watson. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

It was only in March that Watson ended a 558-day hiatus from the NRL, after a torn patella tendon in the 2023 pre-season left him unable to run for nearly a year.

The 28-year-old was then in the conversation to be named for the Blues in Origin I, before a throat injury again left him sidelined for nearly a month.

But Watson had heard the suggestions he was in the frame for selection, and admitted he too couldn’t believe how fast things had moved.

“I have always dreamt of playing (Origin),” he said. 

“But just getting back from my knee, I was more worried about that and just enjoying footy again and playing this year. 

“So to just be in those conversations, I was like, oh, this has come pretty quickly. 

“It just shows you how fast things move in footy. And if you’re playing well you just never know what can happen.”

Watson said he and the Roosters visited multiple specialists to try to allow him to return early from the second throat injury of his career.

If granted that permission to return, it is possible Watson may have played in Origin I.

“It was frustrating, just because it was something so innocuous,” Watson said.

“It’s just the risk with the throat. I felt like I could have played probably after a week. The pain went out of it, but the doctors were like, ‘it’s so risky if you play’. 

“We asked pretty much every specialist and everyone who had an opinion on it, and they all said four weeks. 

“It (wasn’t about Origin, it) was more that I’ve been out. I missed the whole year last year and I just wanted to get back and play.”

Watson believes his patience in returning from last year’s knee injury has in some way helped his 2024 form.

“It has definitely helped put me in a better position this year than if I tried to come back from it last year,” he said.

“The fact it was so slow meant that by the time I came back, I ran and pretty much within two weeks was doing full team training.” 

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