Roosters re-sign ‘grateful’ strike centre

The Roosters have re-signed young gun Billy Smith for a further 12 months, while utility Connor Watson has also inked a new two-year deal despite being linked with a move to the Bulldogs.

It’s great news for Smith, who made his NRL debut in 2019 but played just 12 games across the next four years as a string of devastating knee injuries kept him sidelined.

The strike centre showed why the club had so much faith in him with four tries from 15 appearances this season, including playing much of their finals game against Cronulla with a broken jaw.

“I’m so grateful to the Roosters for the loyalty they’ve shown me over the years,” Smith said.

“I love the club and I look forward to continuing to repay the Roosters for the belief they have always had in me.

“For me personally, 2023 was my best year of footy and I’m excited to build on that in 2024.”

The decision to keep the local junior is huge for the Roosters who often get criticised for their lack of local talent, and the plan will be to extend his contract even further at some point next year as the club navigates its way around a new look backline featuring former Knight Dom Young.

“Billy is an eastern suburbs local, and he is respected by his teammates for his dedication to all aspects of his preparation and performance,” Roosters coach Trent Robinson said.

“It was terrific to see Billy’s growth throughout the 2023 season and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with him.”

Meanwhile, Watson is staying at Bondi for at least the next two seasons despite strong reports suggesting he was heading to Belmore even though the Bulldogs had signed several utilities in recent weeks.

Watson, who made his debut with the Roosters in 2016 before spending four years in Newcastle, missed the entire 2023 campaign after he suffered a shocking patella tendon injury at training.

“I’m stoked to recommit to the Roosters for another two years. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with the coaches and players we have here, and to playing my role for the team,” he said.

Watson is one of the most popular players in the group and has been a terrific ambassador in the community through his charity work.

His return to the field will be just as important, with the 27-year-old able to come on and terrorise exhausted defenders through the middle, while he can also fill in at hooker or in the halves.

“While we were all disappointed for Connor at the time of his injury, it says a lot about his character that he used the year to mentor some of the younger players in our squad and to work on areas of his own development both on and off the field,” Robinson said.

“He is a much-loved member of our club for the player and person he is, and it’s great that he will continue to represent the Roosters for the next few years.”

Originally published as Connor Watson turns down rivals to stay put as the Roosters re-sign star outside back Billy Smith

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