Bateman relishing headgear confusion
Canberra Raiders forward Luke Bateman has seen the lighter side to borrowing skipper Jarrod Croker's headgear in recent weeks but is set to keep the trend if the side continues its winning ways.
Bateman crossed for his first try in the Telstra Premiership after 17 games against the Rabbitohs a fortnight ago and backed it up with a 109-metre effort in the Raiders' win over Cronulla at the weekend – arguably their best of the season.
The 22-year-old's use of Croker's headgear has created a stir on social media in recent weeks with commentators and fans equally confused.
Bateman suffered a fractured cheekbone back in Round 19 and was advised by Raiders medical staff to wear headgear until a full recovery.
"So I went to the first bloke I know with headgear and said, 'Do you mind if I borrow some? I've got to wear it for the next couple of weeks'," Bateman said in reference to Croker.
"Then they came in and said Croker scored a double [after the Rabbitohs clash], but it was my first try in the NRL and no one wants to get it taken away from them because of the headgear they're wearing."
Raiders teammate Shannon Boyd joked it was all a deliberate ploy for Bateman to earn some of the skipper's limelight.
"He looks a lot like [Croker] and he always follows [him] like a bad smell so I think he's trying to be like him as much as he can," he said.
"I think he's loving the headgear."
Bateman admitted he might find it hard to part ways with it.
"If my form keeps going I can't see how I can get rid of it really," he said.
Canberra's on-field performances have been inconsistent over the course of the 2017 season with Raiders coach Ricky Stuart labelling the year as a "learning curve", but their 30-12 upset win over defending premiers Cronulla at the weekend was a long-time coming.
"I thought we did what we were capable of," Bateman said.
"Our pack did a massive job on the weekend especially "Boydy" and Junior [Paulo].
"They were really good and if our two front-rowers start like that every weekend, there's not be too many teams that would be able to handle them.
"The versatility we've got in the middle is a massive factor in us winning footy games."
The Raiders pack will need to lift again against the Warriors on Sunday, who are reeling from their poor showing in Newcastle last start.
"They've copped flak recently and it would probably have been nice to come up against them if they had a few wins in a row, to be honest," Bateman said.
"I never like coming up against teams that have been losing."
While the Green Machine are considered slim odds to feature in finals football, the message was clear from Bateman should they get there.
"There's not going to be any team that will want to play us," he said.
"Every team is capable of beating anyone on the day, it just gives us confidence that when we play well we can beat the better teams in the comp."