The stylish England centre has double reason for celebration having yesterday been given the all-clear to resume playing following a knee reconstruction.
It means he can take some part in his own testimonial game tomorrow when Leeds – with ‘marquee’ signings Trent Merrin and Konrad Hurrell making their debuts – host Castleford Tigers.
Given his sparkling record with the club – Watkins has scored 130 tries in 240 games following his 2008 debut, winning every trophy available – Rhinos expect a significant crowd to mark the occasion.
Still only 27, he is reaching his peak years and, after plenty of NRL interest, is contracted until the end of 2021.
Asked if he envisaged finishing his career in the blue and amber, Watkins said: “We’d have to wait and see but at the moment yes I do see myself staying here for a long, long time, probably the rest of my career.
“We’ll have to wait and see over the next few years but hopefully we can have some good ones. There’s always been rumours and things that have come up but it’s never got to the point where I’ve ever gone.
“This club is really special to me; I’ve stayed here a long time and hopefully long may that continue.”
With their Super League opener at Warrington just a fortnight away, Leeds have named their strongest possible squad tomorrow with Tonga stand-off Tui Lolohea and James Donaldson also featuring.
Watkins, who suffered his injury against Castleford at Magic Weekend in May, added: “I can’t wait to get back out there.
“It’s been seven months now. It seems a long time for a lot of people but for me it’s gone pretty quick as when I did the knee I knew my season was over.
“When I did it the last time (on the other knee) I was targeting to get back in the same season so that was a little different.
“I didn’t know how to deal with it all then but this time I have.”
Castleford are also at strength, Jordan Rankin debuting after his arrival from Huddersfield Giants and utility-forward Alex Foster returning from a foot injury for his first game since June.