Connor Watson has been training "everywhere" for the Newcastle Knights and admits he could play anywhere this year.
There was a time when that prospect wouldn't have sat well with him but the off-contract 23-year-old has a different perspective on being versatile.
NRL.com analyst Jamie Soward said recently that Watson was the best utility in the game with his running game and all-round skills, an assessment that lines up with how new Knights coach Adam O'Brien has utilised him in the pre-season.
"I think going off last year probably at nine is where I played my best footy. In saying that I have trained everywhere this pre-season – at 13, nine, six, one and in the centres some days," Watson said in Indigenous All Stars camp.
"The biggest thing for me is that I probably looked at my utility value as a negative thing when I was younger just because I wanted to go into first grade and cement a starting position.
"I was probably in a bit of a rush to be honest. For me personally I have got to step back and look at where I am in my life and what I get to do every day for a job. I want to play first grade and whether that is in a starting position or off the bench I am still happy to do that. It is about changing the mindset around it."
O'Brien brings new mentality to Newcastle
Last year Watson played hooker, five-eighth, fullback and off the bench for the Knights. Kalyn Ponga and Jayden Brailey have the No.1 and No.9 jersey in the bag while Kurt Mann and Mason Lino are both in the frame to play five-eighth.
After missing the finals in both of his years at Newcastle it is the collective rather than the individual approach that Watson is taking into this year.
"More importantly for me the last two years as a team have been really disappointing. I came from the Roosters where we were one game from the grand final in my last year there and they [won the comp] the last two years," he said.
"That is something I really want to do. I feel like the town of Newcastle deserves us to be playing finals football.
"They have been through a lot, the fans have. In patches we showed we were a great football team last year, but then we weren't a great football team because we couldn't back it up each week. That is what has cost us."
The Knights want to keep Watson beyond this year and he remains confident a new deal will soon be put on the table.
"This is my last year at the Knights [on this contract]. Early talks have started with the club but nothing has been put forward on paper yet. We are just discussing where we are at," he said.
"I think it is probably not going to get done before round one I reckon. That never happens. It will happen in the early rounds of the year."
Watson has been in his element on the Gold Coast this week ahead of the All Stars clash and has embraced his Indigenous heritage. Last year he arranged for the Newcastle team to wear boots painted with an Indigenous design by children from Kirinari Aboriginal Hostel for Indigenous Round. He also had a hand in the design of that jersey, and has joined with teammates Edrick Lee and Gehamat Shibasaki for the 2020 version.
"You go back to how passionate the Indigenous people are. That has been the big thing for me, to be able to go back and connect with the culture and be a part of it," he said of All Stars week.
"It has been a great week with all the stuff we are doing in the community. It has been pretty jam-packed but very enjoyable."