Coogee over Canberra: How Burgess tried to pinch Bateman

If Tom Burgess had his way, John Bateman would be yet another Brit making his home in Coogee rather than leading Ricky Stuart's revolution in Canberra.

The former Bradford teammates will be in good company when the Raiders host South Sydney next Friday, with a record-breaking seven English internationals squaring off for a grand final berth.

With a history dating back to their teens, Bateman sounded out Burgess as he weighed up his NRL move last year.

Burgess gave the cardinal and myrtle a decent sell, only to find Canberra back-rower Elliott Whitehead already had the inside running in getting Bateman and English prop Ryan Sutton into lime green.

"I did have a try, I tried getting [Bateman] for us," Burgess grins.

"But Elliott got in first, he's the Bradford man and after that I had no chance. I couldn't persuade him.

"It was funny in England camp because Wayne [Bennett] was looking like he'd get the Souths job at that point so we were into John, telling him to come to Souths at the end of last year but he'd already signed and there was no back-flip on.

"I'm very close with those boys, John especially. He came through when I was playing first grade and he came into the firsts team at Bradford so I remember that well.

"Same with Ryan, he's always had that ambition to come out here. I was encouraging both the boys, 'if you really want to, just come out and give it a try'. He's going really well and I'm happy to see him do so well."

Bateman's bull-at-a-gate approach to footy has made him a fan favourite in his first NRL campaign.

Raiders forward John Bateman.
Raiders forward John Bateman. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

He's also earning high praise for bringing a new edge to the Raiders on and off the paddock, joining fellow Englishmen Josh Hodgson, Whitehead and Sutton as key pillars of the Raiders' 2019 revolution.

The three Burgess brothers will make for a mouth-watering "Battle of Britain" in the grand final qualifier, with the Rabbitohs trio making a point of catching up with their countrymen whenever the Raiders play in Sydney.

Burgess first locked eyes on Bateman en route to his 2011 Super League debut at the age of 17.

Not a hell of a lot has changed from Bateman's "skinny fat" formative years apparently.

"I was 18 or 19 and John was 16 when we first crossed paths," Burgess tells NRL.com.

"We knew he was a good kid and he was 'Papa John' to us having had his kid when he was pretty young.

"There's not much about him. He's pretty slight but he runs harder and tackles harder than anyone.

"When he was 16 he was skinny fat, but there's a bit more density about him now, a little bit more size about him that makes him more dangerous. 

"Playing with him for England, when we played the Aussies and the Kiwis he never took a backward step. He's always had that in him and he's not scared of anyone.

"He's a real rough and tough lad and he's shown that this year.

"I think that's why the Aussie public loves him, it's why I love watching him play. He's not your run-of-the-mill player, he's a bit different, he's got that edge about him."

 

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