How harsh lesson shaped Raiders young gun
Luke Bateman may have spent the past decade defying expectations, but the Raiders forward is unsure his dream season would've occurred if not for one fateful night last year.
Just three NRL games into his career, Bateman was a late inclusion into coach Ricky Stuart's side midway through the 2015 NRL Telstra Premiership season to face the Brisbane Broncos.
Bateman wouldn't play a single second on that cold Canberra night. Instead he watched on from the bench as the Broncos convincingly beat his Raiders side.
Just over 12 months on, Bateman is set for his 19th game of the season when the Raiders head to Melbourne for Saturday night's huge preliminary final.
"I came off after that game and I was pretty filthy about it," Bateman told NRL.com.
"That was the year I sort of had. It was frustrating but I had to quickly understand that it was where I was at in my career.
"I look back on that moment now and realise that was a part of my growth and learning. It's now I realise it wasn't that big of a deal.
"If I hadn't had learnt that lesson then, it might have been a different story now."
Incredibly Bateman has been attached to the Raiders since he was 12 years old, after signing a scholarship with the club following a School State Carnival in Mackay.
The under-20s Queensland Origin representative signed his first Raiders contract at 15 and moved to the nation's capital as soon as he finished high school.
Despite being the youngest player in the NRL team currently, he's been at the Raiders longer than most.
Bateman has kept the likes of Shaun Fensom, Jeff Lima and Paul Vaughan out of first grade for the majority of the season.
At 100 kilograms and 182 centimetres, Bateman faces an obvious size disadvantage in the forwards almost every week but he hasn't let that slow him down.
"I've never been the biggest kid or forward running around so I've always enjoyed playing against bigger boys. It's always a challenge not letting a bigger fella put one over you," he said.
"The Raiders is the only club I've ever known and hopefully it can remain that way for the remainder of my playing career. This club is home for me.
"They have done a lot for my family over the past decade so it's everything to me. I don't anything else outside this club."
Bateman is now potentially 80 minutes away from representing the Raiders in their first grand final since 1994.
"I've talked to my parents about how it hasn't really hit home yet. Four years ago I was sitting on the couch thinking how good it would be to play finals footy one day," Bateman said.
"To be doing that in my first real year of first grade and to have a premiership in our sights, I wouldn't have dreamt of it when I was 12 signing a scholarship."
This article first appeared on NRL.com