John Bateman’s move from Wigan Warriors to the NRL hit a problem as he prepared to join the Wests Tigers.
It was reported by The Sydney Morning Herald that a Visa issue left Bateman stranded in the UK.
It now seems the former Canberra Raiders forward will not be available for the opening game of the season.
Bateman is joining the club on a four-year deal.
The former Wigan Warriors forward was set to link up with Wests Tigers in January, having played the last two seasons in the English Super League.
The 29-year-old joins Wests Tigers for what will be his second stint in the NRL, having made a huge impact in his two seasons with Canberra.
Bateman helped take the Raiders all the way to the NRL grand final in 2019, falling one game short of a second grand final appearance the following year.
Wests Tigers Head Coach Tim Sheens said at the time of the announcement that Bateman is an important addition to the team:
“He’s a world class player with an enormous work ethic.
He’s the type of player who leads by example.
Bateman himself said he was excited to be joining Wests Tigers during an exciting phase for the club.
“I can’t wait to begin a new chapter at a club that I know is going places,” he said.
“There has been a lot of change at Wests Tigers over the past few months and everything I hear is positive.
Wests Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe added: “We are delighted to welcome John and his family to the club.
“This is another important piece in what we are building as a club, and I know John will play a very important role in the time that he is with us.”
But fans have been waiting to see him in action.
Speaking to SEN radio in Australia, Wests Tigers’ chairman Lee Hagipantelis explained why Bateman was still stranded in England.
“It’s got to go through police checks here, police check over there, he stands in line, there’s no exceptional circumstances for him (to) jump the queue,” Hagipantelis said on SEN 1170 Breakfast.
“It’s a working visa of course, it’s not a tourist visa which is much easier to get… we’re just going through the motions.
“It’s beyond frustrating. I’m not going to make any excuses, we would have loved to have him here by now.
“We spoke to him last night via Zoom at our season launch; he’s very excited to get here. He’s doing what he needs to do to keep himself fit and train, and they’re sending him all the plays.”
Then the $42 police check was completed and following this Bateman has finally landed in Australia.
“I have been training by myself, but you can’t do the team stuff,” he said on the club’s website.
“I’m up for it and looking forward to getting going.
“(Coach Tim Sheens) has been sending me over some clips, I have been looking through them and some of the plays.
“I’ve just been keeping my eye on that and trying to keep on top of it and what we do in training.
“The last couple of weeks we have had games, so I’ve been able to keep an eye on that.”