“Tell me which person in day to day life wouldn’t think about leaving their job if they could get more money for potentially double the length of time? Of course you think about it. It doesn’t mean I want to leave, but you look into it. I’m sitting here with my fingers crossed hoping something does change at Canberra.
“When I’m 45 and struggling to stand up, or trying to put my daughter through university, no one is going to ring me and say ‘you know that extra few hundred grand you were hoping to get? We’ve got it for you now’. She’s my girl. That’s who I wake up every day for. That’s the reason I go to work, to give her the best life possible.
“I’ll stand by that, no matter what people call me. She’s my number one. I’ve travelled all the way to the other side of the world and miss her growing up, so I want to make sure my sacrifice is worth it.”
Canberra have privately conceded this season is most likely Bateman’s last at the Raiders. But Furner, who is under no obligation to release the 26-year-old, has no issue with the English international trying to seek more money.
“The average footballer has four years in the NRL, but you and me have 40 years in our careers,” Furner said.
“I would never begrudge the bloke trying to get what he can. Rick [coach Ricky Stuart] loves the bloke, but the reality is it’s going to be very very difficult to keep him. If we can keep him, we would, but our hands are tied with the roster we have and the emergence of so many of our players. I’ve told him if he can get a good deal that I would drive him there myself.”
Bateman has a clause in his contract that allows him the chance to renegotiate each year. It doesn’t allow him to talk to rival clubs, but every year he gets the chance to sit down with the Raiders and put forward his case.
That meeting was in February, five months after this columnist, working for NRL.com at the time, revealed Bateman had linked with the much-maligned Isaac Moses to begin looking into his future.
“I thought I had a pretty good year last year and Canberra said ‘yeah, you went pretty well, but we don’t really have much for you in 2021’,” Bateman said of his desire for an upgrade.
“In 2022 they didn’t have anything. If I extend, I want to extend four years. I want to stay here. This is where I want to be. I’ve got half of England here playing with me. It’s a home away from home. Canberra said they might be able to get me a deal for 2022 if I wait and see what happens, but to be honest with you I wanted the security in my job.
“Who says I’m going to have as good as a year I had last year in 2020 and 2021? Who says we don’t get to 2022 and they say ‘right he’s no good anymore’. People don’t see that side of it.”
Bateman was arguably one of the best five players in the NRL last season, winning the Dally M second-rower of the year award in his first season at the Raiders.
His manager has begun testing the waters at around $800,000 a year for four seasons.
“I asked Canberra if after we’ve spoken to other clubs, can I come back to them and show them what I’ve got,” Bateman said.
“I spoke to Donny again last night, I told him I want to be in Canberra. That’s where I want to be. That’s my second family. I’ve never once asked for a release, neither has Isaac.
“Isaac does what I tell him to do. I see Don more than Isaac will ever do. If I wanted to ask for a release, I could have done. I don’t want to leave. I want to extend. I’ve never once asked for a release. I told Isaac, “listen, don’t rush into anything because I’m not in any rush”.
Folau rejects Tigers
It could have been one of the biggest sports stories of the year. Israel Folau was contemplating a return home after a conversation with Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire a couple of weeks ago. Maguire, who worked with Folau during their time together at the Storm more than a decade ago, spoke with the dual international to gauge his interest in returning to the NRL next season. However, the 31-year-old is content to remain in the south of France, and is set to extend his deal with the Super League club Catalans for another season.
Packer could return to Warriors
Speaking of the Tigers, there are discussions around a potential loan deal involving Russell Packer returning to the Warriors for the next month. Packer is unlikely to be in the Tigers’ best 17 in the first round back, and the club believes he would benefit from a stint with the Warriors given there isn’t a lower-grade competition for him to imporve his match fitness.
Expansion not dead
The NRL has deferred discussions about expansion but has left the door open for a second team in Brisbane in the near future despite agreeing to a new broadcast deal. ‘‘We’re still looking at a second team in Brisbane, but naturally it’s going to be a lot harder now,’’ ARLC chairman Peter V’landys said. ‘‘It will only happen if there’s a pretty solid business case to back it up. We don’t want any cannibalisation of existing revenues for the Titans and Broncos. The broadcasters are fine with us adding a team when we deem the time is right.’’
Klein to the rescue
Fans have Ashley Klein to thank for the drawn-out refereeing saga ending last week after the whistleblower all but took over negotiations from union boss Silvio Del Vecchio. In a vote, it’s understood all 22 full-time referees supported the NRL’s change, while the six casuals voted against.
There’s been much debate about the future of the NRL digital operation in the latest broadcast renegotiation, but it appears the governing body has retained the streaming rights into the future. Foxtel and Nine had been agitating for change in fear of the code producing its own games in the future, but the NRL held firm.
‘‘Digital is unchanged, other than we are going to work with our two broadcast partners,’’ V’landys said. ‘‘We are not going into competition with them. There will be a content-sharing arrangement and we will promote the broadcasters. It’s a vehicle to complement the two broadcasters. It’s no good selling your lunch to them and then eating it yourself.’’
Michael Chammas is a sports reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald