John Bateman says he would encourage English players to follow his path into the NRL, but only once they’ve established themselves in Super League.
Bateman is back at Wigan after two impressive seasons at Canberra Raiders, including winning the Dally M second rower of the year award in 2019.
He is relishing the chance to add to his silverware tally at the Warriors from his previous five-season spell, and working under coach Adrian Lam for the first time.
His NRL departure leaves Josh Hodgson, Elliott Whitehead, Ryan Sutton and George Williams in Canberra, with Tom Burgess still at Souths and Luke Thompson at Canterbury.
Next year a trio of youngsters will head Down Under with minimal first-team experience. There will be a fifth Raider, Harry Rushton, who has headed there from Wigan, plus Newcastle Knights duo Bailey Hodgson from Castleford and Dominic Young from Huddersfield.
Bateman says the challenge would appeal to any ambitious player but, echoing the previous thoughts of England coach Shaun Wane, he believes the best route is for a player to prove himself in this country first.
Asked what he would advise other players considering the switch he said: “Give it a go – it’s an experience.
“I always said I don’t want to be that bloke in the pub in 40 years saying ‘I could have done this or could have done that’.
“I’ve met plenty of people like that and I didn’t want to be one.
“If you take the chance and it doesn’t work out, then at least you’ve gone for it.
“I’d recommend it to anyone, unless they’re playing for Wigan and it’s someone I know I can win some silverware with.
“It’s a totally different country and way of living, although it was never about that for me.
“I didn’t go over to sit on beaches in the sun, I went to play rugby and better myself.
“That was literally my only goal. I don’t really like beaches and haven’t got the skin for sitting in the sun.
“If a kid ever asked me I’d say go and take the opportunity, although I’d also say make sure you’re at the top of your game in England first.
“You don’t want to be going over there before you’ve really cemented yourself in England.
“Go over when you’re confident in yourself and your game, and know where you need to improve.”
Bateman’s sole focus now is on having an impact back at the Warriors, with his previous boss Wane having been replaced by Lam in his absence.
Bateman said: “Anything will be different without him (Wane) being there – he was such a prominent person when I was there.
“That’s how we grew up as kids and what we got instilled into us at Wigan.
“But they’ve moved on the last two years and now Lammy’s involved.
“I spoke to Lammy the other week and will catch up again soon (Bateman does not return to training until January 22 and is currently waiting for the completion of a house in Bolton).
“When I first got back and did some photos, I went over to Robin Park, which looks a really good facility.
“Hopefully they’ve put the heating on because it was always freezing at Orrell.
“I’m looking forward to getting back in; we’ve got an exciting squad with a good blend of older heads and young lads.”
Bateman will link up with a squad that will have to overcome last year’s last-gasp Grand Final defeat, with Jack Welsby touching down after the final hooter while their returning backrower was 30,000ft in the air.
“I was flying back at the time,” he explained.
“I got wifi on my phone on the flight and a couple of lads from Bradford put the clip of the last seconds on WhatsApp.
“I just thought poor fellas. I dropped a text to Rads (Kris Radlinski) to see how the lads were, and then I got home and watched it myself.
“It was good to see that standard of rugby being played in Super League, especially after the season they’ve had and the games they played.
“Over in Australia that would never happen, the players’ union would come in, but I suppose Super League had commitments to Sky and they had to play the games in a short period of time.
“The standard in that Grand Final was as good as you’d see anywhere in the world.
“It was disappointing not to see Wigan win, but that’s part and parcel of the game.”
Now Bateman wants to repay the Warriors for the desire they showed in bringing him back to the club when it became apparent he would leave Canberra.
He added: “To be fair, Wigan weren’t even in the question for coming back home when I was in contract negotiations.
“I don’t how Rads found out, but he did, and when Canberra didn’t have what I wanted he rang me and asked if I’d be interested in talking to them about coming home.
“Initially it was for 2022, and I said of course I would be, and it went from there.
“Then it moved to coming back for this year, and as soon as that came about and we started talking it was a no-brainer.
“A big thing I found out at that time is how much Wigan wanted me.
“You want just a straight forward contract instead of keeping going back and forth, and they really stuck their neck out for me and showed me they wanted me. That was a big thing for me.”
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