John Bateman loves playing at the DW Stadium and fans love watching him play. After tonight, it will all be over.
The England international will make his final appearance as a Wigan player – for the foreseeable future, at least – when Wigan take on Castleford.
Even if the Warriors win and secure another Grand Final spot, there will be a tinge of sadness for Bateman, who moved to the club from Bradford for the 2014 campaign.
“Last week, I woke up the day after the Hull game and thought: ‘I’ve only got one more game there’, and it hit me,” revealed the Canberra-bound forward.
“The DW has been a great place for me and I just want to enjoy that one more time.
“I need to maybe take the emotion out of it and just enjoy it.
“People realise we’ve not got long left together – this could be our last week, if we lose, and we don’t want that.
“We’re feeling like we’re building but we know we’re in for a game with Cas. If you take all the teams who finished in the top four, if there was one who went under the radar it was them.”
Wigan look well equipped to get the win.
They have lost just once at home this year, to St Helens in July – and haven’t lost any of their eight matches since.
On top of that, Shaun Wane welcomes back key players Sam Tomkins, Sean O’Loughlin and Thomas Leuluai.
Bateman has long been marked out as a special talent, but his star has risen so much that he is now one of the main stars in the Wigan side.
The club even offered him marquee terms to stay before he decided to try his hand in the NRL. The secret of his success? “I just want to win, mate,” he said after being included in the Super League DreamTeam.
“I look at who’s in front of me and I just want to win.
“I love the game, I watch the game, I know it inside out – I know what to do when it comes to it.
“Sometimes I play against my mates but as soon as I’m out there, I want to win for me, and for my team-mates.
“Whatever I see on the field, I’ll back myself and go with it.
“I trust myself to make the right decision.”
Many of his Super League peers have voted for Bateman to win the Steve Prescott Man of Steel award, for which he is on a three-man shortlist.
“He’s just a grub, isn’t he?” laughed Sean O’Loughlin. “That’s why players don’t like playing against him!
“He’s strong, he’s competitive, and works so hard.
“He’s been really good for us this year.
“His sheer grit and determination have dragged us out of some tough places.”
Castleford’s Mike McMeeken believes Bateman deserves to be crowned Man of Steel.
He voted for his England team-mate after being impressed with his performances for Wigan this season.
Bateman and St Helens duo James Roby and Ben Barba are on a three-man shortlist for the Steve Prescott Man of Steel.
“He’s a massive player for Wigan and England, and him being on the Man of Steel shortlist is no surprise to anyone,” said McMeeken (above).
“People look at him and think he’s not the biggest, but try tackling him, it can take four players to get him on the ground. I gave him my vote. He’s been class all year and he deserves it for me.
“The big thing about the Man of Steel is being consistent and he’s done that and been one of the stand-out players.”