Quickfire Q & A with John Bateman (Wigan Warriors & England)

John Bateman has excelled in both Super League and the NRL, and on the international stage with England. The Wigan Warriors star took on the challenge of answering fans’ questions in a recent edition of Rugby League World magazine. Here’s how he got on…

LaneyB: How was it to spend the week in France between the games against Toulouse and Catalans?
It was pretty different to be fair and we didn’t get any sunlight!
I didn’t mind it, the games were back to back so it made sense for us to stay out there and get the work done. We were disappointed not to get the second result but that was nothing to do with staying out there, it was to do with how we played on the night.
For me it was about spending time with my team mates and getting to know them better. It brought us closer as a unit and that was an important part of the trip.

Hughsehhh: Is Australia all it’s cracked up to be?
For me, rugby wise, yes. I loved it and if I’m honest it was probably bigger and better than I ever thought it was. It was crazy, it was like the Premier League over here. You see it from the outside over here but to be right in the mix of it was great.
It was different for me living in Canberra. There, you’re not really local to anything like you are over here, so that was different and something I struggled with.

Tom Magee: Barring the weather, what else do you miss about Australia?
The mates that I met out there. I formed some quite good friendships. There were guys like Elliott Whitehead that I knew before I went and that was part of the reason of me going. But I made some other good mates and have stayed in touch with them.
I do miss the weather as well, and betting on the horses over there. I did a bit of that at Cheltenham, but it didn’t go too well so I’ll probably knock that on the head for a bit.

Paul Coffey: You cracked the NRL despite not being the size of a Burgess brother. How much does size matter in the modern game?
For me, not much. It’s more about how much you want it and fitness – that is a big aspect of it.
Quite a lot of people forget you have to have a good understanding of the game itself and just being able to play rugby helped me quite a lot over there.
Size helps if you’re fit with it, but if you’re too big you can often only last ten or 15 minutes.

DavidM: What was Ricky Stuart like as a coach and what was your relationship like with him?
We got on really well. Towards the end it was perceived in the media that we didn’t but I always got on with him.
He was a straight up fella and we knew what each other wanted from each other. He was one of those blokes that could teach you and get the best from you in training and for me that’s one of the best things to have in a coach.
I have a lot of respect for Ricky and he helped me massively out there.

JohnM: You were an undoubted success in the NRL and part of the reason that I now watch much more NRL than previously. What advice would you give to Brits making the move there that may help them avoid homesickness?
I’d tell anyone wanting to go over there to make sure they are an established player over here first and make sure you have achieved stuff and played for your country. Take those steps in their professional careers first because when you get over there, you’re just another player and it doesn’t matter what you’ve done before.
But if anyone goes out there, they just need to try and enjoy it.

Hughsehhh: What’s the biggest difference in training methods between the UK and Oz?
That is purely the quality of the training you get in Australia due to the weather. You’re getting warm weather, the sun and it’s pretty dry so you can get some pretty good quality skill sessions in early and that’s one of the biggest things.
For a lot of the pre-season here, you’re in the wet and mud, on different pitches, sometimes you’re inside because the weather means you can’t do anything outside.
But in Australia you pretty much have three months of pure skill and with it being pretty dry you can do a lot of running and get some speed in your legs.

Dunbar: You are recognised as one of the best edge forwards in the world and in your stint in the NRL you were Dally M second row of the year but on your return to Wigan you have the number 13 jersey. Is it your preference to play in the middle and was that part of your decision making to come back to Wigan?
I don’t mind where I play, but I do prefer to be in the back row and that’s where I played at Canberra. People forget though that I initially started at loose forward in the 2019 season and only moved to the back row when Joe Tapine got injured. We ended up swapping and I stayed there and he went into the middle.
When I came back to Wigan Kris Radlinski spoke to me about having the number 13 shirt, and given the players that have worn it before it’s a big thing for the club. They don’t just give it to anyone and that was one of the big things about coming back.

arcticchris: Who would be your pick of the uncapped youngsters for England that could force their way in and have a big impact in the World Cup?
He’s probably not classed as one of the ‘young’ ones, but Liam Marshall, for me, has gone really well for us. He’s been very unlucky over the years with injuries and such like, but he’s been really good. We’ve got Kai Pearce-Paul as well in there and he’s still got a bit of work to do to understand that key position a bit more.
There are some really good youngsters coming through at the moment and it’s now about them taking the next stride in being a professional. They just have to be consistent in the first team at Wigan first and if you play well for your club the next step will come.
I don’t like to put pressure on the younger players but I can with Liam because he’s 25 now, but looks about 40.

Cw25: Would you like to return to Bradford at some point?
I have been asked this a few times and I do keep tabs on Bradford and still have a couple of mates that play there.
It’s tough because Bradford are in the Championship and I never see myself playing Championship rugby, but it’s one of those things. I’m at Wigan at the moment and don’t look ahead of being at Wigan, but you never know what’s going to happen. It was one of my proudest moments to start there and would be a proud moment to finish there. It has always held a special place in my heart.

Man of Kent: What do you like to do in your downtime away from playing rugby and training?
I don’t really have a hobby, but I do try to spend some time with my family and friends and get back to Bradford quite a bit. I just like to chill out.
I like to put most of my energy into what I do on the field and at training, so when I get home I’m probably not up to having another hobby.

Hughsehhh: Aside from yourself, who’s the toughest in a scrap in the Wigan team?
I’ve not seen many of them in a scrap, but last year Dom Manfredi was a bit of a nutcase. We’re the same age so I grew up with him in the Yorkshire v Lancashire games. But in the team at the moment Kaide Ellis fancies himself as many will have seen against Catalans and Zak Hardaker is in there as well, so there are a few.

Kirsty Burton: What is your first rugby league memory at amateur or professional level?
Probably when I got told by Mick Potter that I would be making my debut for Bradford. It was the club that I had supported as a kid and I just remember being in the changing room at The Willows, and if you’ve never been in them they are on a slope so had to walk in with your neck bent to the side. I was 18th man and cone boy that night and we’d just been beaten by Salford. Mick just walked up to me and said: “Are you ready?”
I was only 17 at the time and asked what he meant and he told me that I would be playing at Catalans the next week. That was one of the best moments for me.

Emma Broadhead: If you could attend any sporting event in the world what would it be and why?
I think the Super Bowl would be up there. Not so much for the game, because I don’t really enjoy watching the game, but for the half-time entertainment.
Another would be a big boxing event – if it was two big boxers like Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua fighting – that would be something I would like to do.

@andersonlee0817: Who your favourite player past or present?
Growing up it was the likes of Lesley Vainikolo, Robbie Paul and Shontayne Hape. Stuart Fielden was another one. I grew up watching them.
Lesley was pretty massive and I used to walk around Bradford and get excited if I saw him, you couldn’t believe you were seeing him.

First published in Rugby League World magazine, issue 471 (Apr 2022)

In the current edition of Rugby League World (Issue 472, May 2022), Oliver Roberts of Huddersfield Giants is in the Quickfire Q & A hotseat – click here to order your copy, or a great value subscription.

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