Bateman unsure if he will return to Wigan Warriors

John Bateman in action at Catalans
John Bateman in action at Catalans

John Bateman admits he doesn’t know whether he will play for Wigan again after this season.

When his move to Canberra was confirmed, there was one surprise to the open-secret – Wigan saying he had signed a marquee deal to return.

Bateman was even quoted in their statement saying: “Although I’m sad to be leaving the Warriors, it’s great to know I’ll be returning here in a couple of years.”

But speaking to the Observer at their Orrell training base, the England international clarified the unusual arrangement.

And while he hasn’t ruled out a return, he says he may finish his career in the NRL.

“We had a mutual agreement that if I want to come back to Super League, Wigan would get first choice and that (marquee contract) would be the wage bracket we’d be talking about,” he said.

“But that’s about it – I’ve not signed anything.

“Don’t get me wrong, I did state I wanted to come back to Wigan. I probably would want to finish my career here, but there’s nothing concrete agreed that I’ll be coming back in two or three years.

“I want to make it over in Australia and that’s my aim.

“If it means me saying I’m staying for five years, so be it.

“I’ve signed a three year deal with Canberra and I want to make it over there. If I end up staying there for the rest of my career I’m there for the rest of my career.

“A few people were confused about it. I was pretty confused about it, to be fair.”

Bateman seems relieved to be able to speak publicly about the move, which was first reported in May but not confirmed until earlier this month.

Warriors chairman Ian Lenagan says Canberra paid a “significant” transfer fee to buy-out the final year of his contract.

Cronulla, Brisbane and Newcastle were also circling the 24-year-old, but Bateman’s friendship with England team-mates Elliott Whitehead and Josh Hodgson – and coach Ricky Stuart’s keenness to get him on board – tipped the scales in favour of the Green Machine.

Warriors team-mate Ryan Sutton will also be heading for Australia’s capital next year, raising the prospect of four players in the pack being Brits.

“We’re taking over, we just need a couple more,” smiled Bateman. “It’s a relief to be able to talk about it now.”

Given the success of top English forwards Down Under, and the quality of Bateman, a move to the NRL seemed inevitable.

But the one reservation, he admits, was leaving behind his daughter Millie and moving away from his Bradford-based family.

“That was massive,” he said. “We had a decent conversation, considering she’s only eight, about it and she didn’t want me to go but she said it’s better for our future.

“It works out well because I’ll be over there in January and then she’s over two months later for two weeks (for Easter), and then there’s a few weeks and she’s back over (during the summer holidays) and then at the end of the season I’ll be back here.

“It is going to be hard but I’m really looking forward to it.

“Leaving Bradford for Wigan was a big move, it was scary at first but you get used to it and I speak to my mum and my family and the little one every day. I’m pretty close to my family, and it’ll be a big thing for them to be able to come over and see me playing over there.”

His focus is not on Australia yet.

While he is happy to talk about his future, he stresses his attention is on doing everything he can to bow out with a second Grand Final victory.

Issues off-the-field and inconsistency on it have possibly seen Wigan go under the radar to a degree.

But they are second in the table – a position rewarded with a home semi-final – with a three-point cushion on Castleford, and five Super-8s games to go starting with next week’s trip to St Helens.

“We’ve really put ourselves in a position to kick on,” said Bateman. “I’ve won a Grand Final here and it’s something else. To be able to look at your family after it, it’s fantastic.

The club is having a big change, it’s not just me leaving – I’ll probably not play with half of these lads again and I look at them like my brothers.”