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Raiders forward John Bateman.

Canberra recruit John Bateman says it's the best thing that's ever happened to him.

And we're not talking of the England international packing his bags and moving 17,000km from the UK Super League to play for the Raiders in the NRL.

We are talking of a decision the 25-year-old made back when he was just 15.

We are talking of when he chose to be a father.

Being a knockabout teenager it would have been easy to walk away from the responsibility of parenthood. But he didn't.

Millie, who turns 10 this year, will be visiting her dad in Canberra in the not too distant future.

"We do have that great connection. It was so hard to say goodbye to her for a couple of months," Bateman told

"I speak to her every day – we're very close.

"She knows deep down why I'm doing this and my mum is there with her a lot.

"I'm really looking forward to her coming to see where I live and what Australia is like, see the kangaroos. It will be a great opportunity in life for her."

Raiders forward John Bateman.
Raiders forward John Bateman. ©

Becoming a father so young has broadened Bateman as a footballer and as a person.

"When I was a kid I was in the wrong place at the wrong time a lot. I got into trouble and skipped school. My mum would be the first to say I wasn't the best-behaved child.

"But having Millie at that age put me on the straight and narrow. I had someone to look after and provide for. I could have said I couldn't be bothered but I couldn't do that.

"Now I look back and it made me come on leaps and bounds as a player and a person.

"It's the best thing that ever happened to me."

Bateman's arrival in the national capital might have a similar style of impact for the Raiders.

He is not only the third English Test player in Ricky Stuart's pack, alongside Josh Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead, he was in a three-way tussle for Super's League's Man of Steel award last season with Ben Barba and James Roby.

So that brings a certain level of expectation, and under a more intense microscope – the NRL bubble – than playing league in the UK where soccer reigns supreme.

"The Raiders have put their faith in me by paying that transfer fee from Wigan. And personally I had a good year in Super League last year on the field," he said.

"So it's about me repaying them and showing them – and the fans – what I am capable of.

"One of the things I looked for in coming over is that I knew there's huge excitement here about rugby league. It's the main sport and the media attention is different to home.

"I'm looking to improve from that intensity and by listening and learning to all my teammates and coaching staff."

Raiders forward John Bateman.
Raiders forward John Bateman. ©

His two tries in six appearances for England in the 2017 World Cup brought several NRL clubs to his door.

"A few clubs did pop up and my agent spoke to them all. I think the fact I spoke to Ricky quite a lot last year and in those conversations I heard about the culture here and what he wants," Bateman said.

"He reminds me a lot of my old coach back home, [former Wigan mentor] Shaun Wane. Those two are similar in the way they go about things.

"Speaking to Elliott and Josh they also said such good things about the club and lifestyle. So I didn't want to go anywhere else.

"The fact Canberra gets a bit of a winter here sold me as well," he said with a grin.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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