Watson one that got away
Francis Watson in action for WA. Picture: Michael Wilson / The West Australian.

Last October, Francis Watson caught a bus from Broome to Perth to attend the AFL's State draft screening, only to be overlooked.

His performances in this year's under-18 championships must be causing some recruiters to wonder why they didn't roll the dice.

Watson starred in his first game for WA last week and was prominent again at Fremantle Oval yesterday despite the side suffering a 62-point hiding from Vic Country.

The 14.13 (97) to 5.5 (35) result was WA's fourth loss from four games, with the final two games of the tournament against the two Victorian sides awaiting next week.

Crafty half-forward Jack Lonie was the driving force behind Vic Country's win with four goals from 24 disposals, and Jordan Cunico, Darcy Parish, Joe Maishman and Darcy Tucker were also influential.

Swan Districts midfielder Connor Blakely marked his return from a hamstring injury with 25 disposals and six clear- ances for WA in a reminder of his class, while Claremont's Jared Hardisty and Peel defender Dylan Winton also produced solid performances.

Watson, 18, was used at either end of the ground for WA, holding up against a barrage of attacks in the back line early before swinging forward to kick the final goal of the game.

Despite standing at 186cm, his stunning leaping ability and elite closing speed allow him to blanket some of the best forwards of his age group.

Watson played in Claremont's colts premiership last season but split his time between Perth and his home in the Kimberley for much of the year.

AFL academies development manager Michael Ablett said settling in the one spot this year meant Watson's game had improved out of sight.

"He's obviously come from a fair way back and now he's obviously a little bit more settled in Perth," Ablett said.

"You find if things are generally settled and good off-field for the boys most of the on-field stuff takes care of itself.

"He just seems a little bit more mature and a little bit more stable and he's reaping the rewards on the ground.

"I think there's enough there for the clubs to do a little bit more homework on him as well.

"He shows you things at times which are AFL traits, so that's pleasing too."

The West Australian

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