Surfing is elementary for Watson

Margie McDonald

Westpac NSW Blues utility Connor Watson will experience first-hand the Origin adage of ‘mate against mate’ when he lines up against best friend and teammate Kalyn Ponga in the Game Three decider at Suncorp Stadium next week.

The pair both made their debuts in 2016 – Watson at the Sydney Roosters and Ponga at the North Queensland Cowboys – before they spent four years together at the Newcastle Knights (2018-2021) and became housemates.

Watson returned to the Roosters in 2022 and after overcoming some long-term injuries he made his Origin debut at the MCG in Game Two this year (26 June). Ponga has been recalled after overcoming a foot injury for his eighth Origin.

“It’s good, I’m excited for him. I texted him straight away to say how pumped I was for him,” Watson said on Tuesday.

“I can’t wait to come up against him. Who would have thought we’d be versing each other on this stage?”

Mateship hasn’t blinded Watson to the danger Ponga poses.

“We know what he brings – so much speed, footwork. We saw what he did in his Origin debut three or four years ago, where he came off the bench and played through the middle,” Watson said.

“I’d probably say that’s the role they’d be expecting him to do as well as some cover (for positions).

“We know when he’s on the field we’re going to have to be doing some good defence on him.”

Watson doesn’t plan on completely cutting off communication with Ponga even as the Origin match drew closer.

“I might reach out to him. It hasn’t crossed my mind too much.

“Even when we verse each other in Knights-Roosters there’s a lot of love there but we want to get into each other as well.

“It’s always a good challenge against him. We know how good he is.”

The Blues headed to URBNSURF man-made wave complex at Sydney Olympic Park for some recovery after a gym session in the NSWRL Centre of Excellence.

“I grew up surfing so it was good … it all started to come back to me. It was good fun.”

Asked by the media it was wise to be surfing before an Origin decider, he said: “Well the game is not for eight or nine days and the water is really cold too so it was almost like having an ice bath.

“It was like doing recovery, or a more active recovery.”