Bateman contract discussion becomes public

BY DAN

Today James Hooper of Fox Sports wrote that John Bateman has been seeking a release from the Raiders. In fact, his management approached the Raiders four times during the off-season seeking a release so they could get more money. This feels similar to something that occurred last year during grand final week, when his new agent Isaac Moses leaked to the media that he was seeking a raise. This is effectively a public negotiation of Bateman’s contract. Normally we wouldn’t see it, but when we sign with Isaac Moses, this is what you get.

At the time it was clear that this was a leverage play. The intent seemed to be to remind the Milk that Bateman was crucial in them getting that far, and should be paid more. This most recent revelation should be seen in the same light. Some have even argued this is about the current management getting access to the commission of a new contract, rather than being excluded from deals already done. I genuinely have no idea if that’s true but it does seem plausible.

It’s hard to know if Bateman is underpaid because these things are rarely made public. Most reports I’ve seen have him earning around 500k a year, which is definitely less than he’s worth. This is no fault of the Raiders or Bateman – it simply reflects that no one was sure how good he’d be when he came to Canberra. There’s an ongoing negotiation, and it may be a substantial chunk of cash is needed to upgrade him, so this may take longer than we’d prefer.

Canberra are no doubt keen to keep John around, and it’s just about getting the cap space to make the numbers work. The Green Machine upgraded Jarrod Croker this off-season, and just brought Jordan Rapana back, so there’s potential that money is tight right now. However, with a range of fringe players (and Rapana) coming off the cap at the end of the season, it appears they may be more flexibility come the end of the year. The Raiders need to bring Nic Cotric back also, so they’ve got to make that cap-space sing, but there’s no doubt Bateman is a priority.

It feels like Bateman is going nowhere, at least in the next two years. There’s almost no likelihood the Raiders are going to let him out of a contract early given their closeness to premiership. The next two years are a window for Canberra, and they need all hands on deck. They’ve proven in the past that they’re happy to wait out a leaving star (ask Anthony Milford) rather than let them go play elsewhere early. Bateman would have to really ‘kick stones’ for the Raiders to be better off without him, and he seems too addicted to winning to be such a distraction. Last year Bateman said he just wanted to upgrade for more years in Canberra, and there’s been nothing to suggest (until now) that view had changed.

Update: And this is supported by Bateman’s response, which indicates he never asked for a release. This seems to me very much just a conversation about an extension.

It is a shame this negotiation is playing out publicly, but this what happens when you sign with Isaac Moses. Strategically it’s weird that Moses is doing it while Bateman is injured, but that says more about how much of a ‘certainty’ the Englishman has become in the last 12 months. It’s a shame we have to watch how the sausage is made.

Hopefully this can be resolved shortly. There’s no doubt Bateman is going to earn a bucket-load of coin over the near future, and everyone wants him to be earning his maximum as soon as possible. Until he’s signed we’ll see plenty more of this.

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