Tigers won’t rush Bateman even with back-row doubt

Scott Bailey |

Coach Tim Sheens insists he won’t be rushed into bringing John Bateman into the team as Wests Tigers continue to play the long game on the backrower.

The Tigers’ 22-10 loss to Gold Coast was made worse by Shawn Blore’s concussion, with the backrower needing to tick several boxes if he’s to face Newcastle on Sunday.

Blore started the loss playing on the left edge, in the exact position Bateman made his own while starring for Canberra during his two seasons in the NRL in 2019 and 2020.

Signed by the Tigers on a four-year deal in December, Bateman was only able to enter Australia in the last week of February after a delay having his visa approved.

The Tigers have made clear they want to ensure Bateman has reached maximum conditioning before playing this season, while also being brought to speed on team structure and tactics.

And while Sheens is yet to confirm when exactly that will come, the veteran coach said Blore’s availability would not come into a decision on English star Bateman.

“I won’t commit too much on John,” Sheens said.

“He has just landed basically, is settling in. Still doesn’t know the plays. I’m not going to push him if we don’t think he is ready. 

“If it was a grand final this week, he would play. 

“But we have invested four years in him and I am not going to ruin the opportunity early by pushing him through because we have lost a game.”

Sheens must also decide whether to start captain Apisai Koroisau at hooker against the Knights, after he was eased into the match off the bench on Sunday after a calf complaint disrupted his pre-season.

The Tigers admitted their attack was clunky against the Titans, after they had the majority of good attacking ball in the first half but could not convert it into points.

They dropped the ball far too often early in sets, and completed at 68 per cent for the match.

But Sheens was confident it was no cause for alarm.

“We didn’t throw it in. They were still trying until the end,” Sheens said. 

“The effort needs to be there and I think it was. If the effort isn’t there, then I am worried.”