One of rugby league’s worst-kept secrets was confirmed yesterday when John Bateman’s move to the NRL was announced by Wigan.
The bad news was followed by the good news to soften the blow – a link to my thoughts on the coaching appointments is below.
Related: Comment on return of Lam and Edwards
Nobody was caught off-guard by the announcement of Bateman leaving, but in the detail there was a surprise, it was in the news that he has signed a contract to return to the club as a marquee player after two or three years at Canberra.
That is either a shrewd move or a peculiar one, depending on your viewpoint.
Without knowing details of if there are any ‘get-out’ clauses, should Bateman’s stock slip with injury, for example, I’m reserving judgement.
But given Bateman was determined to try his luck in the NRL, it certainly seems smart to let him go now for a hefty transfer fee, rather than for free next year.
Nobody should blame him or any players for wanting to test themselves Down Under.
I don’t share the concern of those who moan of a ‘player drain’ when only a handful of genuine England stars are Down Under, but it is a reminder of the challenges Super League faces in trying to retain as many of the competition’s best players.
I wish him well.
Wigan are live-streaming the Lam/Edwards press conference on Facebook.
Which puts journalists into an awkward spot.
It would make sense for them to save their questions for the ‘one-to-one’ segments at the end – so they have the answers to themselves.
But in doing that, they run the risk of watching fans thinking they aren’t doing their job and asking the ‘real’ questions.
A tip of the hat to the RFL for arranging the Challenge Cup semi-finals double-header.
I watched it while on holiday in Bulgaria, via a dodgy website (no, not that type) on my phone because the BBC iPlayer didn’t work abroad, and I thought it came across great – and on a personal note, I was pleased to see Micky McIlorum perform so well.
When he defends like that, it’s as good as any try!
I hope the ‘double header’ idea is repeated in the future.
Quite a few people are expressing concern – some even amusement – at what the crowd at Wembley will be for this year’s Challenge Cup Final.
I’m not going to be one of them.
I think it’s great that Catalans have reached the showcase decider. Even better if they go on to win the old trophy.
While I was away, the RFL’s chief executive Ralph Rimmer issued a statement supporting the reserves for all full-time clubs.
It couldn’t come soon enough.
Clubs have a long list of requirements to be in Super League yet, laughably, when it comes to developing young players, they can do as they choose.
Wigan, thankfully, are advocates of a reserves system.
Consider this. When Dom Manfredi is back soon, he will be able to be eased back at reserve level - possibly even this weekend.
Imagine, for a minute, Wigan didn’t have a reserve side. He could not go on dual-registration now the Super-8s has started - meaning the only place he could play, after more than two years out injured, would be at Super League level.
What a joke that would be. And yet that is the scenario he would face at most other clubs.
Last month Penrith general manager Phil Gould took aim at journalists for reporting Anthony Griffin was facing the axe.
“He’s contracted until the end of 2020,” said Gould.
And that is how it will stay?
A few days ago, Griffin was sacked.
And journalists everywhere wish they could make the phrase ‘it’s just club talk’ as well-coined as ‘it’s just paper talk’...
When I wrote that I was uncomfortable about the NRL website reporting speculation about Ben Barba leaving St Helens to return to Australia, I was told my by friend and colleague Steve Mascord that the site operates independently of the NRL.
Like a newspaper or other website.
The Australian journalist The Mole reported this week that the NRL site conducted a players’ poll - previously published by now-defunct Rugby League Week magazine - but scrubbed out some of the questions which the NRL didn’t like.
If that’s true, not exactly independent, is it?