Mitchell Pearce warns Luke Keary won’t receive a saloon passage to the Sydney Roosters No.6 jersey next NRL season following the unearthing of Connor Watson.
The emergence of 20-year-old Watson has been one of the few bright spots for the 14th-placed Roosters in a forgettable year.
Watson’s shift from the bench utility role to five-eighth has coincided with the side’s late season resurgence, winning three from six, including three of their last four.
Premiership-winning playmaker Keary will arrive at the club on a two-year deal from arch-rivals South Sydney in 2017 and has been expected to be an automatic selection at five-eighth.
While halfback Pearce spoke about Keary in glowing terms on Tuesday, he also said he had a fight on his hands with Watson for the five-eighth spot.
“It’s going to be a tricky one,” Pearce said.
“It’s obviously why Robbo (Trent Robinson) is the coach and we’re just the players but it’s probably a good headache to have.
“There are lots of things that happen during the season, injuries and that sort of stuff and we’ve struggled for depth this year.
“Luke is coming as a half and I’m really excited to play with him as well.”
Pearce was full of praise for Watson.
“No one knew what position he was going to be at the start of the year, he’s always been a bit of a utility player,” Pearce said.
“Coming in this year as a five-eighth, his running game is as lethal as any five-eighth in the game, if not the best.”
Having grown up playing fullback, Watson moved into the halves upon his arrival at Moore Park in the junior grades but said he had learned to love defending in the front line.
He said five-eighth was his favoured position but he was expecting to play behind Keary next year.
“I’d probably say I’ll start out the year as a utility covering a few positions and I’ll see how I go from there,” Watson said.
“He (Keary) is a great player and he’s won a comp and he’s coming here to start at five-eighth so I’m keen for the challenge.”