‘Tried to set me up’: Raiders star on future, fake Tweet
ALL hell broke loose at the Canberra Raiders over the weekend when a tweet appeared on social media, supposedly from the Twitter account of English forward John Bateman, in which his chief executive Don Furner was labelled a "dickhead".
Furner had appeared on Fox Sports on Saturday afternoon to confirm the club had given the Dally M second-rower of the year permission to test his value on the NRL open market.
Then this tweet appeared from what appeared to be Bateman's account, even with the blue tick: "Yeah well Don is a dickhead too. And I only asked for a release once, no 4 times like cueball (Hooper) suggested. They are full of (poo emoji). #DitchDon."
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Coach Ricky Stuart was shocked when contacted on Saturday night and showed the tweet. He has worked so hard on the club's culture and values in recent years.
"I'm not on social media, so I don't see any of this crap," he said. "Surely it's not him, I'll get back to you."
Furner rang Bateman and his manager Isaac Moses straight away. They confirmed it was a fake tweet.
Your columnist had a long conversation with Bateman to clear this up.
"I swear it wasn't me," Bateman said.
"I haven't got a clue where it came from. Someone has tried to set me up.
"I even Googled 'how do you make a fake tweet' when it was brought to my attention to find out how it could happen. I'd never say anything like that about Don. I like him."
It appear his Twitter handle was photoshopped onto a fake account then sent out with the offending message.
Bateman also took the opportunity to set the record straight on his recent contract dealings in the national capital following the report he had asked for a release four times since last season.
"I have a renegotiation clause in my contract at the end of each year," Bateman said.
"I honestly don't want to go anywhere but we had a chat.
"Don has been straight up and honest with me. He set the record straight from day one when we started speaking about my contract. He said the club had Origin and international bonuses to pay and upgrades to do. There was Jack Wighton, Tootsy (Jarrod Croker) and Nicky (Cotric) and they needed to get them sorted.
"Don was honest and gave us permission to go and talk elsewhere. He didn't have to do that. I appreciate it. He said he couldn't move (on the dollars). That's all I wanted, him being upfront. He's been straight up with me since day one."
After James Hooper broke the story on Friday, Bateman attacked the Fox Sports journalist on Twitter.
It read: "You better stick to polishing that bald head big fella because your (poo emoji) at being a journo. Never once have I asked for a release. Bullshit story #fakenews."
He stands by the fact he hasn't asked for a release.
"I guess that tweet didn't help," he said.
"But I wasn't happy. I have not asked for a release. It's a load of bullshit. I haven't asked once. I didn't want people to think I was lying. I'm not having someone accuse me of something I haven't done.
"I even put a text message on our WhatsApp group to all the lads. I said 'whatever you've seen in the media, don't take any notice of it. I don't want to leave.' It was important they knew."
Bateman said it was critical his negotiations didn't have an unsettling effect on the team.
"Imagine the lads questioning me about not wanting to be here the week before we play," he said.
"It's not true. I'm not going to let them down. I told them if it was to change and I was going anywhere, they'd be the first to know."
Asked if he wanted to test the market, Bateman said: "I'd prefer to stay in Canberra but if Donny's saying they haven't got the money … what do I do? All football players need some security.
"I have permission to talk to other clubs but that's Isaac's (Moses) job."
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Bateman said this time last year he might have asked for a release because of homesickness.
"Twelve months ago I was really missing my family and the north of England," he said. "But not anymore.
"I'm so close to the lads and if I had my way I'd stay with the Raiders for the rest of my career. This is still the place I want to be. I want it to be my home. I'm hoping it can work itself out in the next few months."
Bateman is on $580,000 at the Raiders this year and $600,000 next year.
His agent has told him he could earn $800,000 a year at another club.
There is talk St George Illawarra, who have lost Tyson Frizell, are interested, as are the cashed-up Canterbury Bulldogs.
"With coronavirus I haven't been in a rush to get it sorted because there's so much else happening," Bateman said.
"I just want to play football and hopefully I'll be back in two or three more weeks. That's all I'm thinking about."