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Connor Watson 'savouring every moment' of first-grade return after 500 days on sidelines

Jarred Cross -

Roosters utility Connor Watson has reflected on a "special" return to first grade in Friday's mammoth 48-6 win over Souths, and his approach helping to make "good things happen" after more than 500 days sidelined with injury.

Watson watched his side progress to the semi finals in 2023 mending a torn patella suffered in preseason training last January.

In the year away from playing, he continued with his work in Indigenous youth suicide prevention, which saw him win the NRL's Indigenous Leadership & Excellence Award last year.

The recent blow to his playing career after a solid return season to the Roosters after departing the club for a four-season, 66 game stint with the Knights.

His time in Newcastle came with its own injury troubles, where a ruptured achilles restricted his 2020 campaign to just five games.

Watson played 52 of 80 minutes of his first appearance back with time in the halves after halfback Sam Walker was forced to undergo a HIA examination.

He scored and ran for 80 metres as the Roosters etched a huge victory over their bitter rivals.

Speaking to media this week, the 27-year-old said it was "very special" to be out there after periods of serious doubts about his future.

"I spoke about it after the game... last year you know, there were times where I felt my knee wasn't getting better and it might be a long stretch for me to get back. Those thoughts sort of run through your mind. But it's definitely worth all that hard work when you get to do what we did on Saturday night," he said.

Patella tears can present larger tasks than an ACL to overcome.

Watson was also set on getting back for teammate Jarred Waerea-Hargreaves' 300th first grade appearance, saying the New Zealand international and three-time premiership winner with the tricolours has played a "massive part" in his career.

After coming back into the side via reserve grade to start the year, Watson gave insight to his mindset towards making the most of the opportunity.

"I was just excited to play footy to be honest and get back out there and find love for the game again, because it's been so long since I played it and just to really enjoy that. But to be back in first grade, I'm so stoked," he said.

Reflecting on his previous long-term injuries, Watson said his focus shifted to "just enjoy every moment".

"I feel like it sort of takes a bit of pressure off, you know, trying to play well or wanting to play well, but just going out there and enjoying it and then good things happen...just competing and enjoying that and enjoying working hard...that's when good things happen. So, I'll just keep focusing on that and savouring every moment," he said.

The Rooster take on last year's premiers Penrith at home on Thursday night.

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