Canberra coach Ricky Stuart has revealed that the club recruited English stars John Bateman, Elliott Whitehead, Josh Hodgson and Ryan Sutton to create a winning culture at the Raiders.
Stuart made the comments after Bateman returned a month ahead of schedule from a fractured eye-socket to inspire Canberra to a 12-10 win against Canterbury at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night - their first win in four weeks.
The Raiders were missing six of their regular starting line-up due to State of Origin commitments and injury but Stuart said Bateman and Whitehead had a huge influence on the team.
“Having the Englishmen has been wonderful for the club and their experience has been very valuable now for the younger guys learning how to play first grade that we have got – the four or five kids who haven’t yet got double figures of first grade games,” Stuart said.
“Winning is important and winning is going to help them to learn how to win.
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“I have had a real focus on trying to recruit players who have been winners – playing in winning teams and winning competitions. Elliott has been a winner, John has been a winner with Wigan, they have played Test matches and won.
“They are the best education for your younger players and they are good for our squad but the win at all costs, whatever it takes attitude is very healthy.”
Bateman scored a try and made a number of crucial tackles in his first game since round eight and when he phoned Stuart from England last weekend saying he wanted to play against Canterbury, the coach doubted him.
“I just thought it was a comment from a player hurting for his mates who had just lost a game of footy and were going through a rough patch,” Stuart said.
Bateman back with a bang
Bateman flew to England three days after surgery on his left eye-socket and began training three days later.
He had been advised that he might feel dizzy or light headed but suffered no ill effects.
“Last week I phoned Ricky after watching that game and it was probably a bit of both – me feeling pretty good and seeing the team lose,” Bateman said.
“I said I wanted to play next week and I don’t think he really believed me. I said 'I am serious, get the specialist booked and we will see what he says'.
“When I sat down with him on Thursday he said your left side is probably stronger than your right side so it would probably take double the impact of last time to break it and that is all I needed to hear.”
Whitehead wasn’t surprised by Bateman’s early return.
“I know what he is like, he is a tough kid. He probably wasn’t right to play really but he just stuck his hand up because we are down a few troops,” Whitehead said.
“John and Ryan have done some good things in Super League and won some big games, they are competitive players and they want to win so it is good to have them on board.
"We have probably missed John the last couple of weeks, he has come back early and he played well.”
With forwards Corey Horsburgh and Hudson Young, centre Sebastian Kris and winger Bailey Simonsson all having made their NRL debuts this season, Stuart praised Canberra recruitment manager Peter Mulholland.
“I trust Peter, he has had a wonderful bearing on this roster and his eye for talent is wonderful,” Stuart said. “Corey is a great example, Hudson Young is a good example. One thing I am good at it is I will back my young blokes but I’ll also be patient with them.”