Newcastle Knights head coach Adam O’Brien mentioned it felt “like hugging a corpse” when embracing Connor Watson throughout a coaching session.
The 25-year-old’s future had come into focus in latest weeks, as he was closely linked with a transfer to the Sydney Roosters.
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Watson ultimately inked a two-year deal to play with Trent Robinson’s facet from 2022 onwards, however O’Brien revealed simply how tough the choice had grow to be for Watson in latest weeks.
“One of many mornings final week I may see how a lot this was weighing him down,” O’Brien mentioned.
“I bear in mind giving him a hug, it was like hugging a corpse.
“I care about him, he’s an excellent individual. He’s an excellent human being, he’s a credit score to his household.
“It’s a tough choice however we solely get one life, and I’m happy with him in a method, too.”
Watson’s return to the Roosters represents a brand new start on the membership the place he made his NRL debut. The utility star made 38 appearances throughout the 2016 and 2017 seasons earlier than making the swap to the Hunter Area with the Knights.
O’Brien was at midnight as to precisely which method Watson would go by way of leaving or staying, however he takes some solace in not shedding Watson to a membership he had no reference to.
“I actually wasn’t certain. I knew there was positives each methods,” O’Brien mentioned.
If you are going to lose a participant again to the membership that debuted him … in all probability makes it slightly bit simpler to take.
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“It may have gone both method, I feel each Robbo (Trent Robinson) and myself need to play him in very comparable roles.
“I don’t need to lose any of them, however that’s footy. You’ll be able to’t preserve all of them.
“We’ve misplaced a fairly vital one at present however as I mentioned earlier than we haven’t misplaced him but.
“We get to cherish each single day.”
Watson’s exit prompted whispers concerning a rift between the participant and O’Brien, in addition to the Knights’ high brass, because the 25-year-old reportedly took a pay minimize to affix the Roosters.
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However O’Brien moved rapidly to shoot down any rumours surrounding a breakdown in relationships.
“Actually ill-informed,” O’Brien mentioned.
“I get it – once you don’t signal somebody like Connor and miss out on him, there’s going to be some opinion and hypothesis.
“However I can actually say there’s no fact to that.
“We’re a good taking part in group, we’re actually sincere with one another, however it’s not going to derail us.
“We’re able the place we will do one thing with our season and I’m not going to let one thing like this derail this group.
“There’s extra good instances for us available collectively.”
If the Knights’ remaining fixtures are something to go by, then these good instances O’Brien talked about will virtually actually occur.
Sitting in seventh on the ladder, Newcastle tackle the last-placed Bulldogs on Saturday, earlier than a tasty conflict in opposition to the finals-chasing Titans subsequent Thursday.
O’Brien’s facet will face the Broncos within the final sport of the season, and hopefully by then for Knights followers, the staff will likely be locked in for an additional season of finals footy and the prospect for Watson to complete his tenure with the Knights on a excessive.