The NRL’s much-lauded indigenous round may be over for another 12 months but that doesn’t mean Connor Watson’s job is over.
In fact, it’s far from it.
The Newcastle Knights utility and proud Gamilaroi man, who spoke to a number of indigenous youngsters at the Glenrock Scout Camp on Thursday afternoon, is the driving force behind the Cultural Choice Association Inc (CCAI) and its flourishing Boots for Brighter Futures initiative.
It’s a charity that’s extremely close to his heart.
“In 2017, I lost my cousin at the age of 17 to youth suicide,” said Watson, who grew up on the Central Coast.
“As a family faced with the rising tragedy of youth suicide (in particular among indigenous communities), it was at this point my focus and passion to make a difference in the lives of young Aboriginal people gained impetus and CCAI was established.
“It is a good opportunity to showcase what we’re about through education.
“And, something like the NRL’s Indigenous All Stars game provided that connection to culture for me in particular.
“I was surrounded by like-minded indigenous boys.
“Through things, such as wellbeing programs, CCAI aims to provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children the chance to believe in a future without limitation and, in turn, to realise our dream to raise awareness and support the prevention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth suicide and its related causes in Australia.”
This desire also helped Watson launch Boots for Brighter Futures.
“I was getting mine done and spending a lot of time at Kirinari Hostel,” he said.
“I thought it would be more touching for me, and would mean more to the kids, if they could actually paint the boots.
“Then one thing led to another.
“All of a sudden, the idea emerged of auctioning them off to raise some money.
“We find this program really acts as a vehicle to help guys open up and actually start to talk about some of the problems they’re facing.
“It provides a way for them to connect back to their culture, too.”
Meanwhile, Watson will lead the Knights into battle against the Parramatta Eels in a blockbuster showdown at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday afternoon 6 June.
The club is also celebrating Old Boys Day and the 20-year anniversary of the 2001 grand final-winning team against the “blue and gold”.
Newcastle downed pre-match favourites Parramatta 30-24 on the biggest stage to claim the Hunter organisation’s second premiership.
A first half onslaught from the Knights took the side out to a 24-0.
But, the Eels fought back to set-up a grandstand finish in front of more than 90,000 fans at Stadium Australia.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS V PARRAMATTA EELS
Date: Sunday 6 June
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
Gates open: 1.15pm
NSW Cup: 1.30pm
Newcastle Knights (coach Adam O’Brien): 1. Tex Hoy, 2. Starford To’a, 3. Enari Tuala, 4. Bradman Best, 5. Brayden Musgrove, 6. Connor Watson, 7. Phoenix Crossland, 8. Sauaso Sue, 9. Jayden Brailey (c), 10. Jacob Saifiti, 11. Brodie Jones, 12. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 13. Mitch Barnett; interchange: 14. Kurt Mann, 15. Josh King, 16. Jack Johns 17. Simi Sasagi; extended bench: 18. Jake Clifford, 19. Jirah Momoisea, 20. Mat Croker, 21. Gehamat Shibasaki
Parramatta Eels (coach Brad Arthur): 1. Clint Gutherson, 2. Maika Sivo, 3. Tom Opacic, 4. Waqa Blake, 5. Haze Dunster, 6. Dylan Brown, 7. Mitchell Moses, 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 9. Reed Mahoney, 10. Marata Niukore, 11. Isaiah Papali’i, 12. Ryan Matterson, 13. Nathan Brown; interchange: 14. Will Smith, 15. Shaun Lane, 16. Oregon Kaufusi, 17. Bryce Cartwright; extended bench: 18. Joey Lussick, 19. Makahesi Makatoa, 20. Jakob Arthur, 21. Will Penisini