Canberra Raiders forward John Bateman has broken down in tears as he farewelled the NRL with a 30-10 preliminary final loss to the Melbourne Storm.
While the big talking point out of the match were the actions of Cameron Smith and the Storm post match, it was a disappointing way for the Raiders to bow out of the season after proving to be one of the league’s most resilient teams.
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Key injuries throughout the season piled up but the 2019 Grand Finalists continued to fight and finished the season fifth in an incredible performance.
But after the stunning the Roosters in week two of the playoffs, the Raiders were left shellshocked as the Storm burst out of the gate to run out to a 16-0 lead after nine minutes.
By the 25th minute, it was 24-0 and all but over for the Raiders, who continued to fight but couldn’t get back in the game.
The game spelled the end of an NRL stint for Raiders forward Bateman, who will return to England after two seasons in the competition.
A clearly emotional Bateman broke down in tears as he farewelled Australian fans.
Asked about his emotions, Bateman said they were a “bit all over the place”. “Tough to take, really tough to take,” he added.
As the interview on Fox League continued, Bateman couldn’t hold back the tears any more and spent the rest of the time wiping his face.
“Ah f***, sorry. It’s going to be tough, going to be really tough,” he said. “I just want to say thank you for having me it has been a pleasure.”
He then covered his head with a towel as he walked away from the camera.
Fox League’s Michael Ennis paid tribute to the star but said the interview was “hard to watch”.
“Sad to see him go, he’s made such a difference to the Canberra Raiders,” he said.
“A great person to work with and a fantastic individual, a ferocious competitor.
“That will hurt him. He wanted to go out with a grand final win. Last year’s pain of losing to the Roosters has never left him. Just hard to watch.
“I’ve really enjoyed working with John. He’s a special one.”
Bateman earlier in the season sought a contract upgrade with the Raiders before shopping his services around the league.
But ultimately he signed a multi-year deal with the Wigan Warriors that will bring him closer to his daughter Millie.
For the Raiders, coach Ricky Stuart didn’t have much to say but said the the start of the game was “disappointing” because “it was not us”.
“I can handle the loss, I can understand us but I’m just really disappointed that we didn’t have one of our better games tonight,” he said.
“That was the disappointing part of it from a coaching point of view. It was a game that, as a coach, disappoints you because you know you’re better than that. But Melbourne did a really good job, they did a wonderful job using the weight of possession they had and to our character and the resilience that is in the team, we hung in there and tried to turn it around but Melbourne just wouldn’t let us.
“I’m very proud of where we got to. I’m disappointed that we didn’t go one step further because I think we were better than we showed tonight.”
After answering the one question, a clearly disappointed Stuart walked out of the press conference.