1 July 2020

John Bateman’s departure is just wrong: now the NRL must act on player managers

| Tim Gavel
Join the conversation
John Bateman. Photo: Supplied.

John Bateman was one of the best players in the NRL in his first season. Photo: Supplied.

When John Bateman arrived in Canberra for the pre-season in the lead up to the 2019 competition he appeared incredibly grateful to be given an opportunity to show his wares in the NRL.

He spoke of his tough upbringing in Northern England and how rugby league had offered him a better life. He also made it clear it was hard being away from his daughter, Millie, and his family, who were back in England.

Bateman went on to become one of the best players in the NRL in his first year with the Green Machine. He was a key member of a side that went so close to winning the 2019 premiership.

As proof of his impact, he was named NRL Second Rower of the Year. Heady times indeed, and it seemed that a long career with the Raiders beckoned.

The warning signs that the journey ahead would not be as smooth as the Raiders would have hoped came in the week leading up to the grand final.

As media descended on Canberra to speak with the players prior to the decider, Bateman told NRL.com that he would have to weigh up his options if the Raiders couldn’t improve on his current deal.

He backtracked by saying he wanted to stay in Canberra, but in the minds of many Raiders supporters, the damage had been done and the warning signs were ominous.

Despite being contracted until the end of season 2021, there was buzz earlier this year that he was looking to walk out on the Raiders.

As speculation mounted, so did Bateman’s protestations that he wasn’t going anywhere.

The Raiders, for their part, upped their offer. But again, the speculation had become a distraction.

Then the Raiders allowed him to see what other offers were available from clubs in both the NRL and the English Super League. Sick and tired of the constant destabilising chatter, Raiders management gave him a deadline and forced the issue.

Which is how we got to where we are now: Bateman and the Raiders have announced that he will be leaving the club at the end of the season.

His destination remains unclear. It could be the Bulldogs, the Dragons, or he could return to the Wigan Warriors. For the Raiders and their supporters, this is an unceremonious end to the saga.

So how did it get to this point?

The role of player managers and their ability to hijack a season has to be addressed urgently by the NRL. Bateman’s epic is a perfect example of the process at its worst.

How is it that a player-manager has become as crucial to a club’s success as the player himself? It’s obvious that Bateman wouldn’t have made the comment that he did in the lead up to the Grand Final without external advice.

Ricky Stuart was absolutely justified in his attack on Bateman’s manager, Isaac Moses, and the role he’s played. It’s not the first time the Raiders have been on the receiving end of player-managers doing their best to destabilise the club.

Hopefully, if the NRL acts to stop protracted negotiations mid-season, it will be the last time we see it.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Good riddance.

The Raiders and Bateman had a 3 year deal which Bateman was happy with until he changed managers.

The Raiders were within their right to keep him on the original contract (see The Last Dance on Netflix where Pippen couldn’t get out of a contract).

Then Bateman started bleating about the contract during Grand Final week – the biggest week for the Raiders in 25 years. Grubby tactics.

Yet the Raiders were willing to upgrade Bateman’s contract – to something around $850,000. Bateman said “No”.

Ricky has been trying to build a team culture since he returned to the Raiders – and he’s done a fantastic job. As I said at the start – Good riddance.

The Raiders werent going to bump him to anywhere near $850k.

Try around $600k.

My mail is very good and he knocked back $850K.

Anyway, he’s gone now and the disloyal grub is someone else’s problem.

Bateman was already on $580k and Raiders offered $750k in an upgrade that Bateman and his manager turned down. Good on Raiders for standing firm against a greedy player manager.

He was signed on a 3 year deal for $350-$400k.

After last year, he wanted $800k+ which the Raiders couldn’t afford but he was going to receive $580k this year up to $600k next year.

I know they offered him a lot more last year but that was last year. No one is paying those sort of dollars at the moment and the rumoured Bulldogs deal if it happens is only around $650-$700k a year.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.