MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 13: John Bateman of Wigan Warriors celebrates victory following the BetFred Super League Grand Final between Warrington Wolves and Wigan Warriors at Old Trafford on October 13, 2018 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Despite initially expressing interest in facilitating an NRL return for former Canberra Raiders and Wigan star John Bateman, the Wests Tigers have all but pulled out of the race to secure the back-rower's services, as per the Daily Telegraph.

It's been reported that the Wigan Warriors are playing hardball over any possible transfer fee given Bateman still has two years left to run on his contract in England.

Though the Tigers have made enquiries, it's believed they have baulked at the $350,000 fee the club is demanding just to release the 29-year-old.

Bateman's interest in an NRL return was initially conveyed through former clubmate and fellow Englishman Elliott Whitehead ahead of Canberra's clash with the Melbourne Storm in the first week of the finals.

“He was messaging me a minute ago – he said ‘mention me',” Whitehead said at the time.

Bateman made a noteworthy impression during his two-season stay at the Raiders, winning the Dally M Second-rower of the Year award in 2019 and helping the Raiders to their first grand final appearance since 1994 in his debut NRL season.

He was granted an early release from his contract to return home at the end of 2020 following an injury-affected sophomore year that restricted him to just 11 appearances.

Despite only taking the field infrequently, it was reported at the time that he had been angling for a better contract following his breakout first season, though these reports were denied by the player.