Marsh Sheffield Shield 2020-21
Sledging, betrayal, genius: Shane Watson's Shield debut
Twenty years on to the day, this oral history revisits one of Australian cricket's gutsiest and most dramatic first-class entries
December 2000. Murmurs of excitement emanating out of Queensland have crept across state borders. The subject of the whispers is a blond-haired 19-year-old named Shane Watson from Brisbane, who plays straight, hits hard and bowls fast. The Bulls have ushered him through their underage pathways, and he has already played for Australia Under-19s, scoring a century against Namibia in the World Cup. But this is the pre-social-media age, so the Watson kid remains something akin to Queensland's best-kept secret.
Not for long.
With his team winless heading into Christmas, Tasmania coach Greg Shipperd takes a trip to Adelaide, and the reverberations are soon felt through Australian cricket…
(Note: Shane Watson politely declined to be interviewed for this story. Quotes from his 2011 book, 'Watto', have been used)
'Let down and betrayed'
Greg Shipperd (Tasmania coach): "I used to go over to the Centre of Excellence, which was run by my old teammate Rodney Marsh. In the interests of bolstering our fast-bowling stocks I went to a 'fast-bowlers week' they were having. I walk in the first day and I'm looking out for fast bowlers, but this guy caught my eye batting in the nets.
"I said, 'Who's this bloke batting against all these young quicks?'
"They said, 'It's a kid called Watson, from Queensland. He's a fast bowler.'
"I said, 'No he's not – he's a batter. But if he can bowl as well, crikey, we've got something special here'."
Andrew Downton (Tasmania pace bowler): "Not long before Christmas, I played in a Second XI game against him. It was at the TCA Ground in North Hobart and he was playing for the Cricket Academy. He bowled absolute thunderbolts and he hit us everywhere."
Shipperd: "I did some digging in Queensland. I don't believe he was on any contract at that stage and they said he was nowhere near ready to play. I spoke to Shane. I said, 'If you're prepared to make the move, I'll play you next game for Tasmania'."
Stuart Law (Queensland captain): "We went into Christmas and Bennett King (Bulls coach) and I spoke about there might be an opportunity coming up to play some young kids. Watto was on the fringe of playing nearly every game. Had he had just the patience to hang in … come end of January, February, there would've been some (opportunities in) four-day cricket and some one-day cricket as well."
Shipperd: "It all happened pretty quickly. We talked to him, did some homework on his game, and spoke to some other people about him. I also remember talking to his parents, they were lovely and very optimistic about him taking the opportunity, and I guess they felt comfortable releasing him to our care.
"Tasmania had just bought the house over the road from (Bellerive Oval, now Blundstone Arena), and we put him in there with a few players from Launceston. (Current Tasmania coach) Adam Griffith was one of them. I put some of our extra furniture into that house to help fill it up. But he was well placed and being looked after."
Jamie Cox (Tasmania captain): "I'd never heard of him. Greg Shipperd went and found him, and to this day I still don't know how it all worked, but I remember 'Shippy' turning up one day and saying, 'Righto, we've got this kid from Queensland coming in', and I reckon that didn't go down all that well amongst a couple, but certainly in my head it was, OK, no worries, if he's good enough, then great.
"I trusted Greg and backed him in, and it was a masterstroke, I must say, because from the moment he arrived, jeez, it was exciting; I don't know if any of us have seen a more talented kid just arrive in the system."
Sean Clingeleffer (Tasmania wicketkeeper): "We'd been struggling that season and the selectors were looking to make some changes. It all seemed to happen pretty quickly with him being available to play for Tassie, to then actually being picked in the Shield team. People had mentioned how much talent he had, and he'd been through the academy, so I'd heard his name around the cricket circles, but he was thrust in there with not much notice."
David Saker (Tasmania paceman): "It was a pretty big call because we had Shaun Young who was a very good player, and some of the senior players didn't understand his recruitment, but once everyone saw him play, we understood that OK, this kid's going to be pretty good."
Martin Love (Queensland batsman): "Watto probably felt like he should've been playing but his record in club cricket hadn't been great. He hadn't scored a hundred and I don't think he'd taken a five-fer. Then Tassie gave him the opportunity and he left. Back in those days, people didn't move states … and mid-season, too, which was probably the hardest part."
Law: "We had a culture at the time that you had to start doing the business in Brisbane grade cricket; we want to see you scoring hundreds, taking five-fers and winning games of cricket before you get elevated. You can't just turn up and play. If you think you're ready at 18 to play first-class cricket – mate, everyone thinks that."
Cox: "What I saw was a really green kid who was desperate to play … he was ready to play, and Queensland didn't give him the same opportunity. Watto then was the same as Watto now; he was a really polite, respectful kid who came in and just wanted to get to work. He had the work ethic of a far more experienced player. You could just see from the outset a really fierce desire; he was a really driven human being, and I don't think that ever changed."
Downton: "He landed here some time around New Year's. Greg Shipperd absolutely loved him, and he just slotted straight in.
"His gym sessions were off the charts. He'd be in there for two-and-a-half hours and he was so strong, so committed. Even at training if he got out, he'd get the sulks and knock all the stumps over and everyone would go, 'Who's this bloke?'
"I'd never seen anything like it, as in his commitment, but he would just get really frustrated with any mediocrity."
Saker: "His professionalism and the way he trained was way above anyone in our group."
Shipperd: "Usually young fellas are in a hurry, and he was, but justifiably so. He was waiting for his opportunity and we were in a position to give it to him."
Law: "The biggest part of the frustration was, no-one was contacted. Bennett King only found out that Shane was leaving. As captain of the side, I wasn't even consulted."
Love: "Watto was one of those kids coming up who was targeted to play a lot of games for Queensland, was helped through the U17s and U19s, and Stuey was very Queensland-oriented … Queensland was the number one thing for him. So I guess he felt let down and a bit betrayed, that Watto upped and left so quickly."
Bennett King (Queensland coach): "We were in Caloundra (on the Sunshine Coast) for a camp, and I got the phone call from Shane that he'd signed with Tassie. I wasn't really shocked, because he wasn't getting a go in Queensland, and he was a good enough player to be playing first-class cricket.
"I had a different view from everybody else … I thought being supportive of Shane was the best option, because I felt he could be real value to Australian cricket. But the players were really shitty. Stuey and Jimmy Maher, they were really disappointed, shitty, felt that young players don't wait long enough to earn their spurs.
"My chats to them were, 'You'll scare him away for good – and he'll never come back'. They became pretty confrontational on the pitch from then on, from a Tasmania versus Queensland perspective."
(Jimmy Maher did not respond to cricket.com.au's request to be interviewed for this story. Watson, though, wrote later that as well as Law, Maher was among those most aggrieved by his exit from Queensland.)
Cox: "(Maher and Law) were both ripping fellas but they were tough competitors, and true Queenslanders. They were proud Queenslanders and one of their own had defected. They took that as a serious affront, and they were going to let him know about it."
Law: "Queensland put a lot of time, effort and money into Shane Watson's career – building him up, taking him through the process. He was given a lot. He entered the Shield squad on potential rather than performance at club level, and his performances through the age groups."
"So we spent a lot of time developing him as a player, and to not have the opportunity to sit back and go, 'Right, hang on, let's sit down and talk, and let's make a counter offer' – there was no opportunity to do that.
"That left a bad feeling among us, and we were frustrated; we'd lost an emerging talent, and basically it felt like he'd just walked away from us because the grass was greener. I believe if he'd stayed in Queensland, he would've been an even better cricketer."
Michael Kasprowicz (Queensland paceman): "It's not something that's really spoken about but if someone's coming through the junior teams, all the pathways squads, there's an investment in that person to give them opportunity. So I guess that was where Stuey was coming from, the angle of, 'Well hang on, you didn't give Queensland a good go, then you go and play for Tassie'.
"It would've been nice for him to have come through at Queensland, absolutely, because we had developed something pretty special up here, just with the bunch of guys we had and the success we were having. But life's all about opportunity, and he saw one at Tasmania."
Joe Dawes (Queensland paceman): "Stuey took offence to it but I don't think there was too much in it for the rest of us. With the greatest respect to (Watson), I didn't really know who he was. He was a kid who took an opportunity, and it worked out alright for him, didn't it? Queensland was a tough side to break into – I know I found it hard to get a game."
Law: "I remember going down to Tassie and the first thing we said was, 'We can't make it comfortable for him'."
'Lambasted from every angle'
January 3: Defending Sheffield Shield champions Queensland win the toss and elect to bowl first at Bellerive Oval. The home side stumble to 5-67, leaving Watson to come to the middle and face the music.
Dawes: "I bowled the first ball he faced and I bumped him – I can't remember whether Stuey told me to or I just did it anyway."
Adam Dale (Queensland paceman): "At the time, there weren't many 19-year-olds playing. Shield cricket was tough, and it still is, but for a kid to come in at that age, and debut against the state you've left … there were no personal issues from my perspective, but it would've been tough for him.
"He was a terrific kid … (but) he was on the opposition then, and when they're your own, you love them and put your arms around them, and it doesn't mean you don't love them when they go somewhere else – you just make it hard for them. "
Scott O'Leary (Queensland spinner): "Even though he was a young player, I don't think it would've mattered – if an older player had done the same thing he would've copped it, too."
Love: "There was a bit going on, mainly between Stuey and Watto ... Jimmy Maher might've gone quite hard at him as well. Both very parochial Queenslanders. I never said too much on the field but I would've been close to it at first slip, with Stuey at second. I can't remember anything directly but I know Watto copped it."
As the likes of Clingeleffer, Saker and Downton came and went, Watson pressed on for more than an hour, a defiant one-man band amid what was already shaping as a losing cause. "It was the best initiation I could ever have imagined," Watson wrote. "I had to be tough to begin with and get a lot tougher in a hurry, otherwise I would have just gone to water. I batted at seven … and all the time I got the absolute living daylights sledged out of me … Like Stuart Law, talking about the time he'd chatted to me at (a) cricket camp, saying, 'That's an hour of my life that I can never get back, you little prick'. Jimmy Maher nailed me as well and I really copped it, verbally and physically. They bounced the shit out of me."
Clingeleffer: "It was very intense in the middle. Queensland were throwing everything at Shane, they were aggressive, and he was dealing with it really well. Pretty quickly you could see he had the technique and the approach to deal with those situations."
Downton: "He was getting pretty heavily sledged. They were into him about being a turncoat but his whole thing was, 'Well you blokes didn't pick me'. Back then, it was harder to get out of that Queensland team than it was to get in."
Kasprowicz: "(The sledging) was always going to happen, just to get inside his head and get him thinking about something else other than watching the ball. You don't actually have to talk to someone to do that; you can talk around them – camouflage sledging, if you like. The idea is to get in their head, so they're doubting themselves or they're not sure what's happening. We're not questioning anyone's upbringing or parentage or anything like that – it's just a matter of putting doubt in someone's head."
Shipperd: "That was standard fare from Queensland in that period. They were a formidable unit and liked to impose themselves on their opposition. Shane in particular became a target, but it didn't ruffle his feathers; he was just a determined young man keen to make some strides in the game."
Clingeleffer: "He seemed to really enjoy the competitiveness of it all. He had some great attributes but the fact that a challenge seemed to get the best out of him was maybe the best of them."
Cox: "The Queenslanders were tough to play against at the best of times. They were an experienced, hardened group. Stuey Law is one of my best cricket mates but I know Stuey takes no prisoners on the field, and I know enough to know that they made life very uncomfortable for him – he was getting absolutely lambasted from every angle.
"That gives you an insight into the mental strength of the guy, at 19 years of age, that he could cope with that, and I think we knew we had a player."
Dale: "Good on the kid for playing the way he did. For a 19-year-old on a green seaming wicket against a strong Queensland attack, to be not out, it was impressive stuff."
Saker: "If I was playing for say Victoria and a young Victorian left and I played against him, I'd probably be the same way as Jimmy Maher and Stuart Law were. That's just the way things happen on the cricket field, whether or not there's any animosity to it.
"They had to find something to try and make him more uncomfortable and that was the way they went. That's no different to a lot of sledging that goes on; you're trying to find a crack to prise open a weakness. But it obviously didn't affect Shane."
Watson finished 25no in a Tasmania total of 112, and by stumps on day one Queensland had already raced to 1-121. The lone Bulls wicket to fall was that of Maher – bowled Watson.
Cox: "That would've pleased him because I reckon Jimmy would've been one of the ringleaders going at him."
Kasprowicz: "I remember being surprised at how fast Watto was bowling. There was no speed gun but he would've been 140kph-plus, really getting them through and it was like, 'Holy shit'. I didn't realise that's what he was doing in Queensland, so maybe from some parts (of Queensland Cricket) there was that surprise that, Jeez, this bloke, a Queenslander, headed to Tassie?"
Shipperd: "We wanted people who would compete, and have composure. In those days we were still poking our head up as a state and building a foundation of competitiveness at the time, and what we saw from Shane was a great signal for our group. We had a really good team from a batting point of view and he added to that, but he also really added to the bowling skill-set we were developing."
Off the back of hundreds to Love (172no) and Jerry Cassell (136), Queensland declared late on day two at 4-468. By the middle session the following day, Tasmania were 5-125 and staring down the barrel of an innings defeat when Watson came to the crease
O'Leary: "Tassie were a long way behind, which was a good chance for me as a young player to get a few overs. I bowled non-stop for quite a while. We steadily ticked away wickets in that second innings.
"I do remember the skipper (Law) being parked about two feet away from the bat for about three hours while I was bowling, so I'm sure there were quite a few words spoken."
Law: "That was just to make the kid feel uncomfortable. The way Queensland did it, 99 per cent of the time we didn't speak directly at the player. I'd be talking to (wicketkeeper) Wade Seccombe or bat pad or first slip or short fine leg, in the batter's eyeline. And if he looked at me and came back you'd think, Right, we've got him – he's out of his bubble here. And there was your opportunity to get his wicket.
"I knew (O'Leary) could land it on a 20 cent piece outside off stump, so I thought, I'm just going to hang here and if he defends one and it comes straight to me, what a great way to say, 'Thanks very much, off you pop'."
Saker: "Here's a 19-year-old kid looking in complete control, when every other one of us was really struggling. It was pretty impressive. He looked comfortable in the environment from day one and that was probably what stood out most; he didn't seem out of his depth at any stage. I haven't seen that too many times with guys making their debuts, let alone at his age and playing against your old state."
Kasprowicz: "He was really strong off his legs – even off stump felt like it was too straight, he would whip it through midwicket. That made you feel like you had a chance if you nipped one back in, but you can get carried away and then get too straight. So one of the lines we used to talk about was what we referred to as a 'Mark Waugh line', which was on about a fifth stump, just outside off or a fraction wider. So we adjusted and bowled the Mark Waugh line to Watto. But he had something to prove to Queensland – and it was a chance to prove himself at Tassie as well – and to his credit, he hung around."
Downton: "Queensland would hunt in packs, and that was the feeling you got; you'd look around and feel like you were surrounded. The calibre of players they had, from Wade Seccombe behind the stumps, Jimmy Maher, Kasprowicz, even the fringe players who came in would just step up. They were such an experienced side while we were chopping and changing, trying to find that perfect side."
'As tough an initiation as it gets'
As Queensland eased their way to an innings victory on day three, Watson remained unbeaten on 22 from 82 balls. For the match, he had scored 47 runs without being dismissed, faced 139 balls, and survived for more than three hours. He walked off the field beaten, but far from broken.
Clingeleffer: "Everything was thrown at him that game. A particularly challenging wicket, a lot of intensity from an experienced Queensland team, and he dealt with it all really well."
Cox: "They beat us pretty convincingly but Watto certainly didn't let himself down – just an amazing debut, in as tough an initiation as it gets."
Shipperd: "Some (young players) crumble and some learn to thrive and push back (against on-field intimidation). The best way to push back though is through performance, and the fact he was undefeated showed some of the character we were hoping for. Then when you added in his bowling, and you put the talent and the mentality together, well, we got a good one."
Watson later wrote about his introduction to Shield cricket: "The Tassie guys around the place and the support staff saw and heard exactly how much I was copping it and maybe it made them realise how much I had going for me. I didn't fire up, I didn't sledge them, I didn't say anything – I just copped it all, because I had to … It was a brilliant introduction to first-class cricket and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way."
King: "Part of the strengths of Jimmy and Stuart was their loyalty to Queensland, so we'd let them have those emotional outbursts because keeping it all inside (wasn't healthy). We would talk about not going too hard at people, but in the heat of battle, they'd say what they'd say – sometimes they just couldn't help themselves."
Law: "I don't think it got as personal as Shane made out – there might have been some personal comments in there which, sitting in the dressing room at the end of the game I went, OK, that's pretty poor behaviour on my behalf – how am I going to make it right?
"So I picked up a six-pack of beer, as was customary in those days, I walked into the Tasmania changerooms, I saw Watto sitting down, and I sat down next to him. I handed him a beer and I said, 'Mate, we've gotta talk this out'.
"But he got up, and he walked to the other side of the dressing room without saying boo. Coxy was sitting on my right, I looked at him and I went, 'That's interesting' … I got up, and I walked round the other side of the room, and I sat down next to Watto again, I handed him the beer and I said, 'Mate, come on, we've gotta talk this out'. He got up again, without saying boo, left the dressing room, got in his car and drove home.
(Note: Cox did not have any recollections from the changerooms post match)
Law: "That's the point no-one hears about. They paint me as the pantomime villain … I never had a chance to give my side of the story. We played it tough in those days and you might say some things where you think, Jeez, I've gone a bit too far here, but at the end of the game you sat down and had a beer, a chat and a laugh. It's uncomfortable to start with but after about half an hour of chatting, a couple of beers, you relax and you end up walking out arm-in-arm.
"Unfortunately Watto didn't give us the chance to do that, probably because he was a young kid and he didn't understand what was going on, but that would've been part of the education as well."
Love: "Stuey always did play hard and then have a beer at the end of the game. We always had run-ins with Victoria, with Darren Berry, but after the game there'd always be a beer. I guess Watto, at that point if that was the case (that he declined the beer), he was 19; he wouldn't have known whether he was coming or going, so it probably would've been hard for him to sit there with Stuey, but I can't recall how that panned out."
King: "We always knew he was going to be a very, very good cricketer – it was just balancing when was the right time to bring him into the environment that was Queensland at the time … In this particular matter, I think cricket worked out the right thing to do, and that was to go to Tassie. He could've probably stayed in Queensland for another year before he'd cemented his place and that would've been a year less we saw of him. We thought he probably would've (played that summer) but people have to not perform to get out of the side, and we won the Shield that season, so it was a strong side."
'This bloke could be anything'
The next summer, Tasmania head to the Gabba and are again soundly beaten by Queensland, this time by 10 wickets. In the new year, the Bulls return to Bellerive. According to Watson, the tension between he and Law continues to bubble away. "I remember lying in bed at night thinking, 'Tomorrow I'm going to go out and kill Stuart Law'," he wrote. "Sure enough, the next day he starts up again on me – really nasty personal stuff."
Law: "When I saw Watto's book come out (in 2011), I remember sending him a message, saying, 'Hang on mate, that's not how I remember things going down out in the middle', and he said, 'Well, you never let the truth get in the way of a good story'. And I know he's got to sell books … but it was a mountain out of a molehill, basically.
"I can tell you, far worse was said to me on my debut against New South Wales, believe me. It was questioning my sexuality, my father's sexuality, and everything else. If Watto thought I was personal, Jesus Christ, he doesn't know what personal is."
January 17, 2002: Queensland, now two-time defending Shield champions, win the toss and elect to bowl first, just as they had done 12 months prior. After slipping to 8-153, the Tigers recover to post 281. In reply, Queensland reach 0-5 at stumps on day one. The next day, the unthinkable happens, and Watson is front and centre…
Cox: "We scrambled our way to that score on a pretty hard wicket and then the next day we just threw (Watson) the ball. He bowled an over at Stuey Law, who was still a bloody fine player at that point, and I reckon 'Lawy' played and missed three or four times, got hit on the body – which really pleased Watto – and the last ball of the over he nicked him off.
"I just remember Watto squealing as he ran past him to the wicketkeeper. It was right then as you thought, Jeez, this bloke could be anything, because it was his bowling that excited us more than anything; his batting was obvious, but when he cranked it up with the ball, Jesus, he was proper fast.
"It's a bit like Cameron Green today, (the feeling that) If we can ever see the best of this kid, my God, it's going to be worth it."
Law: "He hit me in the ribs, yeh, but on that pitch, the bouncers were rolling along the ground and the length balls were hitting you in the throat. I could've bowled to him and done the same thing, although it wouldn't have hurt as much because I bowled pop-gun and he bowled fast.
"But he was a competitor, and I loved that fact; playing against him, you knew if he wanted to rough you up, he could, because he was fast."
King: "Stuey was in for a battle, I tell you what – I hadn't seen a bowler bowl that quick for quite some time. Shane really let fly with the ball; it was one of the quicker spells we'd seen for a while."
Watson dismissed Law from the final ball before lunch to leave Queensland 4-79. It began a spectacular sequence of events; Queensland lost their final seven wickets for 51 and then, after being asked to follow-on by Cox, they were rolled again, this time for 101. Incredibly, the Bulls had lost 20 wickets in a day … and in one of the great Shield performances, Watson (6-32 and 5-46) had claimed match figures of 11-78.
Saker: "He and Stuey Law had a good old sledging match, and Shane bowled like the wind. We had a really well-balanced attack. 'Jurgy' (Shane Jurgensen), myself and Damien Wright were three seamers who could really control line and length, and then Shane would come in and scare the shit out of them."
Love: "He bowled really fast. It wasn't a great wicket, but he was quick."
Clingeleffer: "Shane was particularly excited about those (Law) wickets (whom he had caught behind twice, for two in each innings). I guess with Stuart being the skipper of Queensland, it was always going to be a big wicket, but Shane got quite a few big names in that match, and he just gave us a massive amount of confidence – knowing we had a really good player that could help us win games in that fashion.
"It was a fantastic win, particularly given what had happened the season before. Queensland had had it over us, so to win that game in a couple of days, and that effort Shane put in that day … it turned our season around."
Shipperd: "It was perfect. I'm sure he had that little smirk on his face after that game."
Law: "Funny enough, we never had a chance to share that beer. In the years that followed you'd walk into the Tassie changeroom and same thing – radio silence from that side of the room. I thought, Well one day you might understand that what was said, was said – you can't change it.
"Regretful? Yeah, at times I was really regretful about what went on, but I tried to make it right at the end of that first game and was denied the opportunity. So life goes on."
Shipperd: "We made the final that year, and after 11 years they moved me on. The interesting side bar was that through my coaching career with Victoria, I'd often say to our Victorian players who played in the national system, 'Who are the people you really connect to, and give you stuff that's useful to you?' And the two answers that would always come back were 'Ricky Ponting' and 'Shane Watson'. That's a credit to both of them, and that tells you about the personality Shane was in the dressing room."
Saker: "He really took a lot of us to another level – I think the next pre-season was my best ever because I was inspired by a young kid. Some of the younger players got around him in that way as well and he made a big difference in Tasmanian Cricket, there's no doubt about that."
'Don't expect us to jump up and down'
In the 2004 off-season, Watson made the decision to leave Tasmania and return to Queensland. By then, Law had retired from first-class cricket, and Watson had played more than 20 ODIs, firmly establishing himself alongside Michael Clarke as the future of Australian cricket
Cox: "That devastated us. I just remember being pretty bloody disappointed. I was close enough to Watto to never hold it against him, because I knew he was single-mindedly focused on getting the best out of himself. So I just said, 'Well if you think that's the best way to do it mate, then go and do it, but don't expect us to jump up and down and be excited about it'."
Clingeleffer: "We understood his reasons but it was disappointing to lose him. He had been a huge part of our team, and I'd thoroughly enjoyed playing with him."
King: "My task was always about getting players into the national team, and I felt that Shane was someone who could be playing first-class cricket, so share the load around to make the competition better. I always thought if I did the right thing, Shane would come back, which ultimately he did, and that was probably the bottom line; if he can go and develop himself into a really good cricketer, then he can come back and be a really good cricketer for us."
Love: "He had a good few years down there and he always wanted to come back to Queensland, but he waited until Stuey stopped playing for Queensland and then came back for a couple of years before he went to NSW. It wasn't a difficult one (from a Queensland perspective). We knew Watto was a quality player and he fitted back into our line-up very well. I can't recall there being any animosity when he came back."
'Absolutely gutted for him'
With regards to his clash with Law, Watson wrote: "The whole thing kept going for a couple of years before it died down". The two crossed paths again in 2012 when Law was appointed Australia batting coach.
Law: "When I went back into that Australian set-up around him, people were saying, 'Oh that's going to be uncomfortable', but I was like, 'I don't think it is'. I'd moved on, and surely he'd moved on.
"At the time, he was probably at a crossroads (in his Test career). He'd been up and down the order, and I remember just saying to him, 'Look mate, you're a better player than what you're producing at the moment – you need to get to a stage where you're just free and you can play your natural game'. He loved hitting the ball, but he had to get himself in before he had fun.
"I remember (in the Boxing Day Test) at Melbourne he fell short (of a hundred), and I was absolutely gutted for him. I thought if anything could just ease his mentality, that hundred at the MCG would've been a great start. But it wasn't to be."
When Watson announced his retirement from the KFC Big Bash in April 2019, Law sent him a text message. It read: "Watto, congratulations on a great Aussie career. Enjoy your family time, nothing beats it mate. Cheers, Stu Law."
Watson replied: "Stu, thank you so much for your very kind and thoughtful message. It really means a lot mate. I hope all is great with you and your family and I look forward to catching up soon."
Law: "I don't hold a grudge. (Watson) retired from cricket as one of our greatest – played all formats, dominated the IPL, the Big Bash, Test matches – credit where credit's due.
"He probably doesn't agree but I know I had a hand in making him the cricketer he was from a young age, and it's just common courtesy – I had his number in my phone, we've got a WhatsApp group with the Queensland Bulls Masters, and the guys who played for Queensland are all on it.
"Deep down, he's a Queenslander – he's one of us – and it was just the right thing to do from a fellow Queenslander."