Wigan Warriors announced this morning that John Bateman was to leave the club at the end of the year on an undisclosed fee, to pursue an opportunity to play in the NRL.
Whilst we can all agree that if the opportunity is there and he feels he needs to take it then he must do so, can we all really agree on who is the real winner from the deal? I for one, certainly do not believe it to be Wigan.
The Warriors will receive a significant fee, and although we don’t know what that fee is, we can assume that it would please the fans especially after announcements of losses in previous seasons. However, the NRL side involved have received, in my opinion, the best back rower in the Super League competition and thus the payment of a significant fee should be pretty standard, so until that fee is revealed we can’t be sure who’s getting the better of the deal.
Bateman has signed a two year contract, with the possibility of a third year, and this is where the story gets interesting as Wigan have made part of the contract include a return to Wigan as the marquee player once his time in Australia concludes. There are a lot of factors that could mess with this part of the deal and I imagine them to be the parts of the contract we can’t see.
Such as, the possibility of the Super League disbanding the marquee player rule by the time Bateman returns, which would leave Bateman’s wages to be a slot to big to fill on the salary cap. This is the less likely of the factors but it is one for thought.
Next, what if Bateman thrives both in a living sense, and a playing sense and is offered more extensions, although Wigan would receive more would that be a real consolation for losing one of the best forwards in the recent history of the club?
It seems to me that this season, a lot of strange things have happened, which included a massive switch up in the RFL and from top to bottom some interesting decisions are being made but in this case it seems Wigan are keen to settle fans, after the departures of Sam Tomkins, Ryan Sutton and Shaun Wane, along with the possibility of a retirement in the shape of Sean O’Loughlin, the near future is an unsettling place for the Warriors camp.
Wigan are set to announce a Head Coach replacement extremely soon and it seems in the meantime the club are throwing Wigan fans a bone with this contract, that would theoretically mean Bateman returns in his prime years. Only time will tell if this clause is one that will truly benefit Wigan, but it is another bizarre story to add to a whirlwind year of Rugby League.