Canberra coach Ricky Stuart says he is proud of the Raiders for bringing John Bateman's contract dramas to a head, with the Englishman now weighing up a move to Canterbury or back home to his family and former club Wigan.
Bateman officially told the Raiders on Tuesday he will be on the move in 2021 and is weighing up a three-year offer from the Bulldogs and a four-year deal from his old Super League outfit Wigan.
Both prospective contracts are understood to be worth around $2 million.
Neither the Bulldogs or Wigan have made any official comment on Bateman's future.
A return to the UK looms as the most likely option for the 26-year-old, who is expected to have less than 10 games remaining in Canberra colours due to his ongoing shoulder injury.
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With his 10-year-old daughter Millie living in England, along with Bateman's extended family, the lure of being in the same time zone as his loved ones is understandably drawing him home.
Stuart said his personal relationship with Bateman won't be affected by the contract saga, which will see him leave the nation's capital after pushing for an upgrade per the terms of his original three-year Raiders deal.
"It was always going to happen. I'm proud of the club that they put a timeline on it," Stuart said on Tuesday.
"It's really disappointing, John's a really big part of the squad and to lose him really disappoints me.
I've got a lot of respect for John as a blokeRicky Stuart on John Bateman
"We here at the club have built a really strong roster, and then you're getting players pulled out of it the way John has really disappointed me."
The original Raiders deal Bateman signed bringing him from Wigan to Canberra allowed for him to renegotiate his deal each year, with the club in turn understood to have tabled a healthy extension midway through 2019.
Stuart alluded to as much on Tuesday, saying Bateman's rejection of that initial offer was the beginning of the end for his time in lime green.
Bateman's future dominated headlines during grand final week last year when he confirmed his desire for a contract upgrade with NRL.com.
As a result, the Raiders have been prepared to move on for some time, giving Bateman permission negotiate with rivals and making 2021 recruitment and retention decisions based on the likelihood of his exit.
"I've got a lot of respect for John as a bloke, I've got on with him very well and as a footballer, I have the highest degree of respect," Stuart said.
"We offered John a very good offer last year to his English manager and then his new manager. It was a very good offer.
"And the words of 'you're getting closer' I thought was disrespectful to Don and the club, and that day there I knew we wouldn't be keeping John and therefore we needed to spend the money."
Bateman's return date from injury remains unclear, though NRL.com has been told he is still at least another month, if not two, away from a comeback.
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If Bateman is out for another eight weeks he will not be back in lime green around mid-August, leaving him with only six regular-season games for the Raiders, and any potential finals fixtures, before moving on.
In a statement issued by the club, Bateman thanked Canberra for the chance to play in the NRL and said he would do everything he could to finish his time with the club in the best way possible.
"The Raiders gave me an opportunity to come to Australia and play in the NRL and I’ve loved every moment playing for the club," he said.
"I’m doing everything I can to make sure I get back on the field as soon as possible and finish my last season with the Raiders on a high."