Canberra Raiders players John Bateman dejected after losing to the Sydney Roosters in the 2019 NRL Grand Final at ANZ Stadium. Picture. Phil Hillyard
Canberra Raiders players John Bateman dejected after losing to the Sydney Roosters in the 2019 NRL Grand Final at ANZ Stadium. Picture. Phil Hillyard

Why Bateman stared down celebrating Chooks

Watching the Sydney Roosters lift the NRL premiership trophy as red, white and blue streamers and confetti rained down on the players was too much to bear for the Canberra Raiders.

Every single player turned their back on the celebration and walked away, heading toward the hoards of Green Machine fans waiting in the stands.

But not John Bateman.

The Englishman stood, a lone figure, and watched the Roosters celebrate. And watched. And watched.

"It's easy to walk away from those moments and turn your back. But I have learned you need to stand there and watch and take it all in so you can see what winning titles is all about. The moment will drive me all of next year," Bateman told The Daily Telegraph.

"When I'm back in pre-season, that's the moment I'm going to make sure I remember, the Roosters celebrating.

"If we get to the grand final next year, and hopefully we will, I'll remember that moment then too."

"They're the moments that sit with you, winning is great but for me losing, it's something I make sure I take in because that's what drives me on."

"It hurts, it f***ing does, but you have to get hurt to get back up and go again."

Eventually Canberra coach Ricky Stuart had to pull Bateman away.

The devastated forward relented and reluctantly turned to join the rest of his teammates.

"He [Stuart] just said 'c'mon mate, lets have a chat'. He said 'I know it hurts but you'll learn from all this next year," Bateman revealed.

The Raiders collapsed in despair at fulltime. Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images.
The Raiders collapsed in despair at fulltime. Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images.

 

While Bateman had no trouble articulating the poignant post-match moment, he struggled to describe his emotions immediately after Canberra's controversial 14-8 to the Roosters on Sunday night.

"It's a weird feeling, I can't tell you to be fair... I feel numb. I'm gutted. I'm just so gutted actually," he said.

It's a type of anguish the Raiders backrower has experienced before.

Sunday's decider was Bateman's first in the NRL but his fifth consecutive grand final. Before making his move to the Raiders ahead of the season 2019, Bateman played in four-straight English Super League grand finals, losing two and winning two in 2016 and 2018.

"I can't really compare. Losing to me... if you lose, you lose. We've worked hard all year and we have a special group of players all year, it hasn't all been for nothing but no one remembers second best. I can't remember second best. I can't remember who was second best in last year's grand final," he said.

The Roosters won their third premiership. Photo by Matt King/Getty Images.
The Roosters won their third premiership. Photo by Matt King/Getty Images.

But despite the heartbreak of a loss in Canberra's first grand final appearance in 25 years, Bateman has reassured long-suffering Raiders fan that a title isn't too far away.

"At the start of the year when I got here people didn't even give us a chance of making the top eight. Even all year, and game after game people were still writing us off. Even when we got to the grand final people were saying we would get absolutely hammered. You sit there and you laugh," he said.

"We have the quality but we lost, fair enough. But we've got something special now. Special group of players, special coach staff and our fan base is fantastic. We'll be back next year."