Wayne Bennett tried to sign me when I was 16, reveals John Bateman

John Bateman returns to Wigan in 2021 after two seasons in the NRL with Canberra Raiders

John Bateman has revealed that Wayne Bennett tried to sign him when he was 16.

The Great Britain and England international will return to Wigan in 2021 on a four-year deal after spending two impressive seasons in the NRL with Canberra Raiders.

Bateman, now 27, has revealed how former England coach Bennett and Peter Mulholland tried to sign him when they were at Newcastle Knights.

“My daughter was born on October 9th, and I had just turned 16 on September 30th – I signed for Bradford not long after that so I started getting paid,” Bateman told the Bloke In A Bar podcast.

“I was on a pretty good whack as well when I was 16 because I had a few clubs after me. There were a few clubs over here (Australia) to be fair, Wayne Bennett tried to get me at Newcastle. Peter Mulholland, he’s at Canberra now, tells me stories of when he rang my mum.

“I knew who he (Wayne Bennett) was obviously but I was asking the likes of my grandad and he was like ‘wow, it’s Wayne Bennett, John!’

“I didn’t have an agent back then, I was only a kid and my mum didn’t have a clue because all the calls used to come to her. I had two coaches – Kelvin Lockett and Jason Lee – they were both really good for me growing up as a young kid and they coached me all the way through until I turned 16.

“We just asked Kelvin if he would sit in with us (on the discussions) to talk about what he thought was best so it went from there. I had my little girl around that time and Newcastle, Peter and Wayne were like ‘come over, we’ll do this for you, we’ll do that for you, you’ll play in the younger ages but then we will take you through’ and I had just had my little girl and I was just like I literally cannot do it because she wouldn’t know who her dad was.

“There were a few clubs in England as well after me and I signed for Bradford because it was closer to home and it was my boyhood club that I’d supported all my life. I’d been to watch them play with my grandma, mum and brother all the time so that was my big decision to stay at Bradford at the time and I then made my debut there.”

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