Wigan Warriors 2016 Season Ticket holders again had the first look at an exclusive interview with Wigan and England second row, John Bateman.
Fans can now read the full interview below, while you can check out our Season Ticket and Membership options HERE
John, you started at Wigan just over two years ago…did you expect it to go as well as it has done?
No, to be honest with you I didn’t really expect to play too much in my first year, I don’t think Waney expected me to play that many games too. With the injuries we had I just got a chance. I thought I’d just be finding my feet, coming into a big club like this with so many world class players you don’t expect to be playing every week, you just want to learn and pick up stuff. It was weird how I just fitted in, I really enjoyed it playing around better players.
Was it a shock when Wigan came in for you?
Yeah I started in the first team at Bradford towards the back end of the season but then I got a couple of injuries and had operations on my shoulder and ankle. After that I came back, I don’t think I played too many games to be honest with you, then we played Wigan – I remember it well, I got man of the match. I remember when Waney signed me he said that my performance that day was one of the main reasons he came in for me, he said he’d not seen a player play that well against Wigan for a while. It was weird really, it’s not every day you get the best club in the world coming in for you.
It was completely out of the blue?
Yeah well there were a couple of clubs interested at the time, it was when Bradford were struggling. My agent was looking around and came to me and said that Wigan were interested, considering how old I was I just wasn’t expecting it. I’d been at Wigan when I was younger, I supported Bradford growing up but would always keep my eye on Wigan too.
You were at Wigan when you were younger? Tell us about that…
I was on the scholarship scheme when I was 14 or 15, it was great experience to train at a club like this at that age. I’d come over straight from school most nights to train and it just became a bit too much for my mum and my granddad. I then had a little girl and she was one of the main reasons I stayed in Bradford to be honest, I just wanted to spend time with her and didn’t want to move away from home when she’d just been born.
How did you find coming over here to Wigan? It’s quite a big move for a 20-year-old…?
It was a bit of a shock at first, I didn’t know what to expect at first at all. I was worried I wouldn’t see many people back home in Bradford but it’s much easier than you think to get back and forth. I regularly go there and back in a day whilst my mum and my little girl come to all of the games too. At the time I was a bit worried but Sarge (Dan Sarginson) was moving over at the same time and we moved into my apartment together so that made it easier.
Your Wigan debut came in the World Club Challenge game against Sydney Roosters, talk about a baptism of fire! How was that?
That was weird! I never really thought about playing in a World Club Challenge never mind making my debut for Wigan in one. To go out onto that pitch at the Allianz Stadium and to play against people like Sonny Bill Williams, Michael Jennings, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves in my first game for Wigan was weird. It was good though, you want to test yourself against the best players in the world. The result didn’t go the way we wanted that night but I was happy to get my first performance for Wigan under my belt.
How did you feel when you found out you would make your debut in that game?
Waney just spoke with me at the hotel and told me I was going to start on the bench. We played against Huddersfield the week before and I’d been 18th man and after that game he said “make sure you’re ready, train well and you’ll get your chance” and I did. I couldn’t believe it.
Is Shaun Wane a coach that you enjoy working with?
Definitely. You couldn’t ask for a better coach, he’s straight down the line, he tells you how it is. You can have a laugh with him but when he means business he means business and I think all of the lads understand that. Over the last few years we haven’t won any silverware but as a group I think we’ve come on leaps and bounds. With the players that we’ve had come on board and how long this group of players have been playing with each other I think we can really kick on this year.
After your debut against the Roosters you soon started to play on a regular basis for the first team. You must have been happy with that?
Yeah well that’s always been one of my goals, even from being a youngster – I always said to myself, if I get into a team I don’t want to come out of it. That was obviously a big test at Wigan, I didn’t think I’d play as many games as I did in my first year – I don’t think anyone did, I just trained hard and enjoyed my rugby.
So you managed to break into the Wigan team and looked to be holding down a regular place in the side and then the Club went and signed another England international with Joel Tomkins coming back in July. How did you feel when that happened?
It was a weird one really, when we first signed Joel I was a bit gutted to be totally honest with you. When your club signs someone else who plays in your position you question it a bit because you’re playing there but then I thought about it in the long run and Joel is another international player and I came here to learn from players like him. You also want to test yourself too and the competition for places is intense. You’ve got Joel (Tomkins), Lockers (Sean O’Loughlin), Faz (Liam Farrell) and myself competing for those back three positions and it brings the best out of everyone. It’s making me and everyone else a better player.
The competition for places in 2015 along with a shortage of centres due to injury saw you switch there towards the back end of the season. How was that?
I’ll play wherever really. It needed to be done as we were struggling for centres after Sarge got injured, I just want to play rugby at the end of the day and that’s what I needed to do. Long-term though I’d prefer to play in the back-row and I want to make that my position.
You recently made your England debut in the internationals with France and New Zealand. You must have enjoyed that?
It was a shock really, I was playing centre for Wigan and then went and did the same for England. I made my debut against France, scored two tries and got the Man of the Match award – I couldn’t have asked for a better start really and then to get the series win against New Zealand was great too. To play against New Zealand, in what is not really my strongest position and to have done alright is good and helps boost your confidence.
You captained England academy on a tour of Australia in 2012, it’s early days but would you love to have a crack at the first team one day?
I think that’s one of the things you always dream of doing. I just want to work hard now and become one of the players who gets selected for England year-in year-out. If that ever came then I’d grab it with both hands but I’ve just got to keep focused here and play well each week for Wigan.
People have mentioned you potentially as a replacement for Sean O’Loughlin when he hangs his boots up…is there any bigger compliment?
No I don’t think I could ask for a better compliment to be honest. It’s nice of people to say that but it’s another thing doing it. At the moment I’m just enjoying playing alongside him, he’s the best player I’ve ever played with and it’s just a privilege to play alongside him.
Two years at Wigan, two Grand Finals but no medals as of yet – you must be itching to get your hands on a trophy now….
Yeah two years, two Grand Finals but two losers medals, I never keep my losers medals – I just give them to my grandma. You pride yourself on winning and at the end of the day we’ve not done that. Like I said earlier though, we’ve been building here for a couple of years now and we’ve still got quite a few young players the likes of George (Williams) and Gilly (Oliver Gildart), I’m only 22, Sarge (Dan Sarginson) is 23. The team is a good age, we don’t want to be known as a team that keeps going to the Grand Final and losing, we want to win a Grand Final this year. We also want to put a run together in the Challenge Cup, we’ve not done that since I arrived and we really want to put that right this year too.
Finally, you recently signed a new four-year deal that sees you stay at the Club until at least 2019, you must have been happy to have got that sorted?
Yeah it took a bit of time to sort out but we got there in the end. I was in the England camp at the time and Kris Radlinski drove two and a half hours so that I could sign the contract, I think that shows what the Club is all about. It is good to get it sorted, you do worry about stuff like that but now I can just enjoy my rugby and look forward to a good few years.