Leagues: WAFL Colts
Image Credit: The Sports Photo via Swan Districts FC
POSITION: Small-Medium Defender
SNAPSHOT: "A versatile defender who mops up at ground level and can intercept aerially, Watson offers an attacking style off half-back."
Bryce Watson is one of the biggest bolters out of Western Australia this year, playing himself into draft contention via an exciting brand of football. The small-medium defender is able to impact in a variety of ways in defence but arguably does his best work on the rebound, breaking lines with his dash and piercing kicks. Having endured an injury-interrupted bottom-age campaign, Watson broke out in 2021 to earn state Under 19 representative honours and a draft combine invite, while placing third in Swan Districts' Colts best and fairest count in a premiership year. With eye-catching plays and a strong rate of development, the 18-year-old is one to watch late in the piece.
+ Reading the play
+ Kick penetration
+ Intercept marking
+ Defensive versatility
- Kick consistency
With the modern game moving at such a frantic pace, players who can turn defence into attack as quickly as possible have their place. Watson is one such player, who reads the play well to take up good positions behind the ball, before intercepting and setting off on the rebound. Whether it be in the air or on the ground, he is able to help turn possession over and spark positive chains in transition, ending his spurts with sharp disposal by foot.
At 182cm, Watson is more than just a run-and-gun type though. He is versatile in the sense he can play slightly above his size when intercepting, either supporting his key defenders third-up or sitting under high balls to mark himself. In this year's Colts grand final, he proved a great support for Rhett Bazzo in keeping Jacob van Rooyen quiet after quarter time. On the flip-side, Watson just as easily sweeps up the loose balls at ground level and can power away with a burst of speed to set up the attack.
Watson's run-and-carry is the first part of his rebounding prowess, which is then capped by his kicking. He averaged 17.1 disposals in 15 Colts games this season, with over 80 per cent of them coming via foot. Given he plays at pace, Watson can sometimes rush his disposal but usually gains good meterage. He had his share of turnovers and scrubbers this year, but proved damaging when he got it right and can make his usually penetrative disposal a more consistent weapon going forward.
Speaking of consistency, that is another trait Watson can look to develop. He remains a player who pops up in bursts, catching the eye here and there with his athletic feats and willingness to take the game on, but could do so more regularly throughout four quarters. Having strung together some nice form at times in a year where he has developed so much, Watson can certainly bridge his quieter moments quickly enough. As a smaller type, he may also look to add some strength to his 71kg frame and apply more tackling pressure (1.9 per game) given his primary role is in defence.
DRAFT PROJECTION: Late/Rookie
Watson is a player with strong upside and his rate of development in 2021 has seen him bolt into draft contention. Having a full season under his belt, including representative action, the Swan Districts product has an advantage over many other rebounding defenders around the nation with similar traits. With an exciting style, versatility, and easily developable areas for improvement, Watson could be a shrewd late pick who rewards a willing club down the line.