Revealed: Why Dogs are primed to snare Bateman
CANTERBURY have emerged as the team most likely to benefit from John Bateman's contract dispute with the Canberra Raiders with revelations the English cult hero could be a Bulldog as soon as next season.
Speaking on The Daily Telegraph's Monday Bunker, Sports Editor-at-large Phil Rothfield revealed it was coach Ricky Stuart's close relationship with Bulldogs compatriot Dean Pay that could be the deciding factor in Bateman's likely departure from Canberra after this season.
Raiders chief executive Don Furner had appeared on Fox Sports on Saturday afternoon to confirm the club had given the Dally M second-rower of the year permission to test his value on the NRL open market.
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Bateman was forced to defend himself after all hell then broke loose at the Raiders when a screenshot of a tweet appeared on social media, supposedly from the Twitter account of the Dally M second-rower, in which Furner was labelled a "dickhead".
But with the odds of Bateman remaining in Canberra beyond this year drifting by the day, Rothfield said the Bulldogs were in prime position to pounce.
"I think he'll be at the Canterbury Bulldogs next year," Rothfield said.
"Ricky Stuart, he's the one that can make the decision to release him.
"Ricky is very, very tight with Dean Pay.
"If he was going to offload him I think he would be more comfortable with him going there and helping out a mate at Belmore."
Pay was an assistant coach to Stuart at Parramatta in 2013 and followed him to Canberra before being appointed Bulldogs coach for the 2018 season.
Rothfield said he hoped Bateman, who could command around $800,000 on the open market, would remain in the nation's capital.
"I don't think he's done himself any favours with the manager he's with, Isaac Moses, he is a controversial figure in the game isn't he? And he's after the cash.
"I don't want to see this player leave Canberra. I think the beauty of the Raiders is that they've got that tight-knit group of Englishmen.
"I don't blame John Bateman. He's got this contract which allows him to renegotiate. He thinks he can earn more money. The average time for a footballer is four years. He'll be around longer than that.
"He's reading about Tyson Frizell getting $800,000 or $700,000 up at Newcastle. He's reading that David Fifita is worth $1.2 million, $1 million, whatever and he thinks he can do better.
"And he's got the right in that contract."
Despite Stuart's declaring to Rothfield that Bateman's contract saga wouldn't impact the Raiders, The Daily Telegraph senior NRL reporter Paul Crawley warned the situation had put added pressure on last year's beaten grand finalists.
"If you're a big-money player and you're chasing $800,000 a year for the following year, you'll want to aim up on the field," Crawley said.
"He's put pressure on himself and his team, this coming out as it has.
"He is being paid good money but not huge dollars. He's come out and perform wonderfully in his first season. But, gee whiz, he's going to be putting pressure on himself this year to go one better."
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Crawley took particular issue of the power imbalance that allows situation's like Bateman's to evolve where speculation is rife about his future while he still has almost two years left to run on his Raiders deal.
"The game's got to do something about it," Crawley said.
"You sign a contract, he's got this year and next, two full seasons to go on this contract and he's allowed to get out.
"It's so disheartening for the fans. It's not right and the game's got to do something to fix this mess.
"This was happening long before John Bateman came on to the scene. Last year we had a similar scenario with Ryan Matterson at the Wests Tigers. Who ultimately ended up at Parramatta for more money, although he says he wasn't going for money."
The Raiders resume their NRL season on Saturday against the Storm in Melbourne.