'If you could sign any Super League player...': English stars attract NRL interest
Wigan coach Shaun Wane is unfazed by the attention his players are set to attract from NRL clubs while in Australia for Saturday night's historic Super League clash with Hull FC and the match against South Sydney Rabbitohs.
John Bateman is among the Wigan stars to declare he wants to play in Australia and the England international is certain to be in demand, with one club boss telling NRL.com during the World Cup: "If you could sign any Super League player it would be him".
Winger Joe Burgess recently told NRL.com he wanted to return to Australia after a stint in 2016, while Bateman has an NRL clause in his contract with Wigan he is considering taking advantage of at the end of the season.
"In my Wigan contract I have got a release clause at the end of 2018 to go to the NRL," Bateman told NRL.com. "Having been in Australia for eight weeks during the World Cup that was one thing I looked at.
"I wanted to see how it was and what the style of living would be like, and stuff like that. It was really good, I enjoyed my time over there and I enjoyed the people so it is something I would possibly like to do in the future."
Playmaker George Williams is another player likely to be in the sights of NRL clubs and the two matches in Australia will effectively put the Wigan stars in the shop window but Wane is unconcerned.
"It don't bother me, we have got a great junior system so if any player wants to go we will make a new one," Wane told NRL.com.
"I understand the pull of the NRL, it is always going to be there and I never beat myself up about it. If we end up losing John Bateman, then that's the way it is.
"He is a Wigan player at the minute, he is contracted and he is happy with me but if things change then we have got loads of back-rowers coming through."
Wigan have a number of players in their squad for the Hull match at WIN Stadium and the February 17 fixture at ANZ Stadium against the Rabbitohs who have played in the NRL and returned to the famous club.
Burgess joined Sydney Roosters in 2016 but played just four NRL matches before moving to the Rabbitohs and returned at the end of the season, while Sam Tomkins and Thomas Leuluai had stints with New Zealand Warriors.
English centre Dan Sarginson recently signed with Wigan after playing last season for Gold Coast Titans.
"We have had some success with players coming back," Wane said. "It is a great experience for them coming over here.
"Joe Burgess has been a revelation since he returned. It probably gave him a bit of a kick up the backside he needed and let him know where he was at. He has come back with a great attitude."
Wigan had their first visit to WIN Stadium on Wednesday and Wane said the players had settled in quickly to their beachside hotel in Wollongong.
"The weather is fantastic, I was doing a one-on-one with a player on my laptop this morning looking at the beach and it just fantastic to be here.
"It is a big game on Saturday against Hull, we had a chat with the players yesterday and told them it is game on, this is a working week and we have not come all this way to lose.
"We have explained to the players the need to look after themselves and limit their time on the beach and in the sun but we are enjoying the experience. It is freezing back home, it is snowing so the positives of being here far outweigh the negatives."
The match against Hull FC on Saturday night is a round two Super League fixture but will be controlled by NRL referee Matt Cechin. Wigan and Hull are due to name their teams on Thursday.