Bateman talks tears, trophies... and drawing a line
John Bateman is aiming to end a turbulent season on a high '“ with team-mates he would 'go to war' alongside.
The forward is gunning for his first piece of domestic silverware, having played and lost in two Grand Finals and a World Club Challenge with Wigan.
“I think I’ve brought some bad luck,” smiled the 2014 recruit.
“I’ve played in two Grand Finals, lost them both, and we’ve got some wrongs to right.
“These are the games you dream of playing in as a kid, to play in two already is good, but I want a winner’s ring.
“It takes a bit out of you when you lose.”
Wigan head into the title-showdown in good form, having beaten Hull FC (twice), Warrington and Catalans in their last four matches.
They have shrugged off the absence of seven frontline players through injury to propel to within 80 minutes of their first trophy since 2013.
“People don’t talk about our injuries because we’ve done well,” said Bateman, who turned 23 last Friday.
“But half of our salary cap is on the sidelines, and the players who have come in have just as much desire – you’re going to go to war for one another. To look at each other and think: ‘We’ve got this’, it’s a great feeling.
“When Hull went ahead (last Friday), we were behind the sticks and we said: ‘Leave everything on the pitch’.
“And if you look at the last 10 minutes, everyone put their bodies on the line, and it paid off.
“It feels so good knowing we have it in us.”
Bateman has played a key role in Wigan’s surge towards Grand Final this year. His early-season form made him a favourite for the Man of Steel, and he has finished the campaign in terrific form on the right flank.
Sandwiching those periods, of course, was an eight-week block out of the team after he was suspended by the club for a drunken fracas.
Speaking to the media for the first time since his ban, he was – understandably – asked about the off-field drama.
And he was – understandably – reluctant to rake up the controversy.
“It’s part of life,” he says. “Everyone has ups and downs, and that’s what it is. I’m not going to say this-and-that about it because look, it’s happened, it’s gone, and we’ve moved on.
“It is what it is. Wigan pay me to concentrate on playing rugby and that’s what I’m here to do.
“And to be able to play with this bunch of boys, and go to another Grand Final... I’m made up.”
The Bradford-born forward will have family including his brother, mum and daughter in the Old Trafford stands.
“They’re the ones who are there when it’s not going right for you,” he said. “To be able to give a bit back, to put the winner’s ring on my daughter’s finger... that’s what it’s about.”
Bateman returned to Old Trafford with the squad yesterday for a walk onto the pitch, and he’s hoping it isn’t his last game of the year, with the Four Nations looming – he played at centre for England a year ago, and has eyes fixed on nailing down a spot in his preferred second-row spot.
But this week is all about Wigan, Old Trafford, and a trophy which has eluded them for the past two years.
“We had a talk in the week, about what it would mean to us,” he added.
“There were a few tears, it got a bit emotional... but it’s brought us tighter together.”