John Bateman on lockdown from Down Under

In these unprecedented times most people can turn to family for support, whether it’s to share a meal or just sit in each other’s company and enjoy watching television.

That’s not the case for 26-year-old John Bateman. At the end of the 2018 season, the former Wigan second-rower left Super League to prove himself against the best in the NRL.

When the coronavirus pandemic took a turn for the worse, with lockdown laws introduced around the world and international travel no longer an option, it was at that point Bateman felt a long way from home.

“It’s a strange situation at the moment with what’s going on,” Bateman told Sky Sports on Tuesday.

“I’m so far away from home, probably the first thing when it all came out was that I wanted to see my family and I couldn’t do that. We’re all safe and we’re all pretty healthy so that’s the main thing.

“I want to make sure my family are okay and even more so my little girl. I obviously want to see her. At times like this it makes you want to be closer to your loved ones.

“If the NRL had got cancelled I would have been on the first flight out, there’s no doubt about that.”

The pandemic is not just keeping families a part, it continues to wreak financial havoc in sport around the world.

Last week every Super League club were forced to make significant pay cuts to both players and staff wages. Something the NRL has also been faced with.

Bateman has been checking in with some of his former Wigan team-mates and believes the situation Down Under is more worrying.

“I’d probably say it’s a bit worse if I’m really honest with you,” he said.

“We found out, I think about a month ago now, that if there were to be no games being played for the rest of this year, then next month would be our last wage that we’d get until we started playing rugby again.”

Bateman admitted he and his team-mates were sent applications to apply for unemployment with the Australian government.

“You never think that in our position you would ever have to do something like that,” he said. “It’s pretty scary it’s one of those things you never think will happen to you.

“We got told in a meeting that if worse comes to worse we’d have to go down there [Centrelink]. So pretty scary times, and I think being English over here, I don’t quite think we qualify for it.

“It’s pretty scary at the moment, but the way things are going here in Australia, it (the virus) seems to be clearing up a bit, so hopefully we will get back underway May 28.”

If the NRL are given the final green light, the season will restart at the end of next month and it’s likely all 16 teams will have to base themselves in Sydney. The proposal has generated some negative discussions with a number of clubs being forced to relocate for an indefinite period.

Bateman said: “At the end of the day, if we want to keep the game going, if we want to get paid, if we want to pay off mortgages, if we want to look after our families, we’re going to have to make these sacrifices and I’m totally all for that to be fair.”

The England and Great Britain international is still recovering from shoulder surgery and the current circumstances have seen a delay in his recovery.

“I got out of the sling, I think a week before it all got shutdown, so because my arm has been in a sling for about six weeks, as soon as it came out you need to obviously start rehabilitation and rotation and I couldn’t really do anything for two weeks, so it probably put me behind on my scheduling and when I wanted to come back.

“May 28th at the moment is probably pushing it a little bit, but hopefully it is only one or two weeks around that. I’m just trying to get back in the gym now.”

In his first season playing in the NRL, Bateman was named the Dally M Second Rower of the Year, and helped guide his team to the Grand Final, something most people this side of the world wouldn’t have been surprised by.

“I grew up always wanting to play in a Super League Grand Final, that’s all I watched and that’s all I wanted to do,” Bateman recalled. “And once I did that it was like a dream come true. I never imagined playing in Australia myself.

“It was one of those dreams where you never thought you’d really get there. It was a what if. And when it did come about it was crazy to be fair.”

One person who would have expected nothing less is Wigan’s executive director Kris Radlinski, who Bateman remains in constant contact with.

“I spoke to him the other week, he obviously mentioned he was stuck in the house making tea and messing about with the kids.”

No doubt Radlinski does and says what he can to persuade the star player back to the place Bateman still calls home.

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