CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 27: John Bateman of the Raiders celebrates at full time following the NRL Preliminary Final match between the Canberra Raiders and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at GIO Stadium on September 27, 2019 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Wigan Warriors and England star edge forward John Bateman is still on the radar for the Wests Tigers as the 2023 pre-season gets underway.

Bateman, who has spent time in the NRL previously with the Canberra Raiders where he played 34 games between 2019 and 2020, has been linked heavily to the Raiders in recent times.

The Wigan forward, who has over 200 top-flight games having spent time with the Bradford Bulls and Wigan Warriors before his move down under in 2019, was regarded as one of the best in his position during his time in the NRL.

A 20-test veteran for England, Bateman's pursuit from the Wests Tigers could come with a transfer fee attached to it, however, with Jackson Hastings now moved on to Newcastle, the path could be clear for Bateman to form a dream second-row combination with another recruit for 2023 in Isaiah Papali'i.

News Corp's David Riccio told Triple M Radio that the club has salary cap space for Bateman, with Tigers officials reportedly "quietly confident."

“I don't think they are finished, I know they have got salary cap space left to go and that ultimately points towards John Bateman,” Riccio said on Triple M.

“It is getting closer, talking to Tigers officials yesterday they are quietly confident, they don't want to talk publicly about how the negotiations are going.

“I expect the transfer free from the Tigers to Wigan, which sits outside the salary cap, to be around $250,000 to be paid by the Tigers.

“Ultimately it is up to Bateman now and whether he wants to come back to Australia, I believe all indications are that he does.”

The release of Hastings yesterday points in the direction of Bateman's signature, with previous reports suggesting Bateman didn't want to play alongside Hastings.

The Tigers have been in the process of beefing up their forward pack following the twin departures of James Tamou (North Queensland Cowboys) and Zane Musgrove (St George Illawarra Dragons), as well as Luciano Leilua to the North Queensland Cowboys.

Isaiah Papali'i will offset the departure of Leilua, however, Riccio said the club could still push for an extra key acquisition ahead of 2023 as incoming coach Tim Sheens aims to turn the team around.

“That will strengthen the Tigers up even more, but I don't think they will be done after that, I think they've got at least one more spot in their roster, so the rebuild could continue beyond Bateman,” Riccio said.

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  1. I look at Wests, at the players that the club has re-signed:

    Shawn Blore
    Asu Kepaoa
    Brent Naden
    Joe Ofahengaue
    Tommy Talau
    Starford To’a
    Brandon Tumeth
    Alex Twal

    … and I would think that they are all going to be on more than they are getting now. (If they were not worth a raise then the club would not have renewed them).

    Then, I look at who the club has bought:

    Sione Fainu
    Josh Feledy
    David Klemmer
    Apisai Koroisau
    Christian Ma’anaima
    Isaiah Papali’i
    Will Smith
    Charlie Staines

    … and who the club has released (or who have retired)::

    Luke Garner
    Oliver Gildart
    Jackson Hastings
    Luciano Leilua
    Jacob Liddle
    Jock Madden
    Thomas Mikaele
    Zane Musgrove
    Tyrone Peachey
    James Roberts
    James Tamou
    Kelma Tuilagi

    It strikes me that Wests will be paying more than they have saved through they guys who have gone. Yet they still reckon to be able to afford John Bateman.

    Perhaps all the new contracts are back-ended.
    Perhaps Wests is relying on the disappearance of Luke Brooks next year to free up $1.1M to cover these new guys.
    Perhaps Wests management are taking a punt on the salary cap increasing enough for 2023 to cover all the extra outlay this year (which is shrewd, if risky !)

    However, the question that strikes me is what criteria NRL Central is applying to decide whether the new contracts are “compliant” with the 2023 salary cap, given that no cap exists yet.

    Contrast the Wests spending with that of clubs like Souths (two ins and three outs), Manly (three ins and five outs), Cronulla (four ins, four outs). Maybe those three clubs have missed out by not taking a gamble on the cap going up enough to enable them to buy a couple of top-notch players.

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