Canberra Raiders forward John Bateman could make an NRL return after revealing coach Ricky Stuart has opened the door to the possibility.
The Raiders released Bateman from the final year of his contract in June, which was set to end in 2021. With speculation about bad blood between Bateman and Stuart.
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Bateman suggested the rumours were way off the truth and revealed Stuart has given him an open offer to rejoin the Raiders in the future.
“I spoke to Ricky about it last week and he was asking me a few questions about it all. I told him that I was really looking forward to going home and seeing my family, spending time with them,” Bateman said.
“If in a couple of years time I decide I want to come back, Ricky said there would be an offer for me there.”
In the lead up to last year's grand final, Bateman's contract negotiations dominated the headlines, as they did again this year in June. His manager Isaac Moses was accused of stalling on an offer to get an upgrade on the Englishmen's contract.
“For me, how the contract negotiations panned out, people probably made it a lot worse than what it was with all the talk and stuff,” Bateman said.
“The club, myself and Ricky we’ve always been on civil grounds. Ricky said if I do ever want to come back to let him know.
“It’s been the best time of my life, the best rugby league that I have played since I started playing over here. You never say never.”
Bateman is committed to his four-year deal commencing in 2021 with the Wigan Warriors. The second-rower played 132 games for Wigan and won two grand finals between 2014 and 2018.
“I’m signed for Wigan for the next few years and I’m really looking forward to going back home. I’ve always said to my little girl that I’ll be home before secondary school, which she does next year,” he said.
“But before I do that I have a massive job here and I don’t want to go out in any other way apart from winning that grand final.”
Bateman has a chance this weekend to knock off last year's premiers the Roosters and avenge his side's 14-8 loss.
Saturday’s blockbuster grand final rematch will be the first time Bateman takes on the Roosters since watching the Bondi outfit lift the Provan Summons trophy last October.
Bateman was still recovering from a shoulder injury when back in round 10 the Raiders defeated the Roosters 24-20.
“It’s a massive game, if you look at it as an observer, a fan, it’s the biggest of the year. They have close to a full strength team, close to what they can possibly put out … they have Sonny Bill Williams, Luke Keary is back. They’re the games you want to play, against the best players,” Bateman said.
“I haven’t had the chance to play against the Roosters since the grand final, on that day they were better than us. I just remember being sat there watching them lift the trophy.
“But I’ve made sure to do that whenever I have lost a grand final … to use that feeling as motivation to get back to the same spot but obviously go one better and win the trophy.”
With Sonny Bill Williams sure to be dominant in the headlines, Bateman insisted he has eyes for another superstar in the oppositions line up, Boyd Cordner.
“The Roosters are always a good test … Boyd Cordner in my eyes had probably been the best backrower for a lot of years now … I want to test myself week in, week out but it’s even better when you get the chance to test yourself against the best,” Bateman said.