Wigan’s hopes of keeping John Bateman beyond the end of this season appear to be receding.
The 24-year-old is expected to leave the club later this year to move to the NRL.
No deal has been signed but Canberra have emerged as the early favourites for his signature.
His close friend Elliott Whitehead, who he played with at former club Bradford, is at the Raiders along with their England team-mate Josh Hodgson.
Wigan prop Ryan Sutton is also thought to be close to agreeing a deal to move to the Australian capital.
Bateman’s departure would be a blow for the Warriors. He underlined his class in Saturday’s 38-10 Magic Weekend victory against Warrington, operating at centre, and he has been in talks about a longer-term deal.
Bateman is under contract with Wigan for next year but a clause allows him to move to the NRL for 2019 if an already-set – but undisclosed – transfer fee is paid.
Sutton’s departure will not come as a surprise. The 22-year-old has made no secret of the fact he wants to test himself Down Under and he is out of contract at the end of this season.
It has been a busy few weeks for Wigan in terms of contract-talks.
They were able to retain Oliver Gildart and Willie Isa, and also improved the contracts of young wingers Liam Marshall and Tom Davies.
They also signed Zak Hardaker last week as a direct replacement for Catalans-bound Sam Tomkins.
But it appears as if Bateman will be leaving later this year to join fellow ex-Bulls graduates Sam, George and Thomas Burgess – and Whitehead – in the NRL.