John Watkiss came to Australia as a ten-year-old and developed his skills in Sydney's Canterbury area under Joe Vlasits. He transferred to APIA and created a then-scoring record of five goals in a match, against St George in a final at Sydney's Wentworth Park. He was a versatile player who started as a striker, then switched to midfield before turning to defence. Despite being injured playing for APIA in the 1968 Australia Cup final he was signed by Hakoah for the 1969 season - the same year he made his debut for Australia as a defender against Greece at the Sydney Cricket Ground. His first goal for Australia was in a World Cup qualifier against South Korea at Seoul in 1969 where he reverted back to a midfield role. Watkiss played more than 450 matches for Sydney clubs Canterbury, APIA, Hakoah and Sutherland, leading to 23 full A internationals including the 1970 and 1974 World Cup campaigns.