Departing Canberra Raiders star John Bateman has confirmed he is set to return to the Super League with Wigan.
Bateman opted to exit his Raiders contract one year early seeking an upgrade on his $600,000 deal, with Canberra coach Ricky Stuart not-so-subtley blaming his decision on his agent after the club tabled “a very, very, very good offer”.
The Raiders also had to pay a £200,000 ($358,000) transfer fee to Bateman’s former club Wigan to bring him to Canberra in the first place, only for him to leave with one season remaining on his contract.
After reports he had turned his back on offers from the Bulldogs and Dragons, Wigan confirmed the England star will return to the Super League club on a four-year contract.
“I’m very happy to be returning to Wigan on a long-term contract,” the injured 26-year-old said in a statement.
“On a personal level, some of the best times of my life have been in a Wigan shirt and I can’t wait to return, to play and make some more memories.
“It’s been a tough decision but to be back to Wigan, to be at home with my little girl, my mum and the rest of my family is something I can’t wait to experience once again.
“I still have plenty of unfinished business with the Raiders and my focus now is to get myself back on the pitch as soon as possible and put myself in the frame for selection.”
Bateman will be reunited with his daughter Millie with the move and he will reportedly be taking a pay-cut to do so.
“The main reason to come over here (Australia), was to test myself, to see how good of a player I am, and I feel like I’ve done that these last two years,” Bateman told Wigan TV.
“For me, I’m happy with that. I’m happy where I’m at and I want to progress my career, I want to progress my playing abilities at Wigan. I want to come back there and win more trophies.”
Stuart rips into NRL player managers after Bateman exit
Wigan’s executive director Kris Radlinski was ecstatic to welcome back the club’s favourite son.
“John is one of the best players in the world,” Radlinski told Wigan’s website.
“He has the respect of players and coaches in both hemispheres and is a natural born competitor and leader.
“We’ve been extremely proud to see him take the NRL by storm in 2019 and we’ve always looked forward to welcoming him back to Wigan when the opportunity presented itself.
“As he’s entering the prime years of his playing career, I think it’s a real coup for the Super League to have a player of his calibre return to the competition.
“In what are incredibly challenging times we need to be sensitive to the fact that the financial impact of the coronavirus will inevitably lead to a restructuring of the squad and the club. John’s arrival next season has been part of that careful squad financial planning.
“We’re in no doubt that this investment in John, as someone who knows exactly what it means to represent our jersey, will continue to drive the club forwards and bring our famously loyal supporters the excitement they’ve earned, as we all head into what will be a crucial period for the sport.
“John is now completely focused on getting fit and returning to the Raiders squad and finishing off his adventure in Australia on the highest note possible.”