Wigan have confirmed John Bateman will leave to take up a contract in the NRL after receiving a significant fee.
Bateman has signed a two-year contract with an NRL club from 2019 with an option for a third for an undisclosed fee.
The England international has also agreed a three-year deal to become Wigan’s marquee player when he returns from Super League.
On his move to the NRL, Bateman said: “This has been an incredibly tough decision for me to make as I have enjoyed my time at Wigan so much but, ultimately, I have always had the desire to play in the NRL at some point in my career so this opportunity something I didn’t want to turn down.
“Wigan did all they could, in my opinion, to keep me here but I was always upfront with them regarding my motivation to play in a different competition.
“Although I’m sad to be leaving the Warriors, it’s great to know I’ll be returning here in a couple of years. I’d like to thank both Ian Lenagan and Kris Radlinski for offering me the opportunity to return to the club.
“My attention now is solely on helping Wigan as much as possible in the remainder of the Super League season and to repay the Wigan fans for their support.”
Warriors chairman Ian Lenagan commented: “John was adamant that he wanted to try his hand in the NRL and, once it became clear to us that he couldn’t be persuaded, we wanted to ensure that the club gained the best deal in these set of circumstances.
“I believe we have done so. Despite John’s experience, he is still only 24-years old and, throughout our discussions, he has made it clear to us that he is determined to return to Wigan in the future.
“He will do so as a better player then, entering the peak years of his career, so we will look forward to welcoming him back to the club.”
Wigan executive director Kris Radlinski added: “We offered John marquee player status and an increased leadership role moving forward but he was very honest with us about his desire to test himself in the NRL.
“There’s no ill-feeling or bitterness towards John who has been upfront with us throughout our conversations. It’s always hard to lose a player of John’s calibre but we are happy to have agreed his return to the Warriors once he’s finished his time in the NRL.
“With the recent signing of Joe Greenwood from the NRL to add to Liam Farrell and Willie Isa, coupled with promising youngsters such as Liam Paisley coming through the ranks, we still have plenty of quality in our second-row department that we can call upon.”