Wigan have announced that England back-rower John Bateman will return to the club from Canberra Raiders on a four-year deal from 2021.
Bateman, 26, was voted the best second rower in the NRL last season after a superb debut year with the Raiders in helping them to the Grand Final.
Injury has kept him sidelined this term, and his departure from the Raiders midway through his contract was confirmed last month, with the club’s lack of space on the salary cap to keep him for 2022 and beyond one of the mitigating factors.
He said: “I’m very happy to be returning to Wigan on a long-term contract. On a personal level, some of the best times of my life have been in a Wigan shirt and I can’t wait to return, to play and make some more memories.
“It’s been a tough decision but to be back to Wigan, to be at home with my little girl, my Mum and the rest of my family is something I can’t wait to experience once again. I still have plenty of unfinished business with the Raiders and my focus now is to get myself back on the pitch as soon as possible and put myself in the frame for selection.”
Bateman’s deal has an option for a fifth year and he returns to the club where he spent five seasons after arriving from hometown club Bradford in 2014.
Warriors executive director, Kris Radlinski, said: “John is one of the best players in the world. He has the respect of players and coaches in both hemispheres and is a natural born competitor and leader.
“We’ve been extremely proud to see him take the NRL by storm in 2019 and we’ve always looked forward to welcoming him back to Wigan when the opportunity presented itself.
“We had an agreement with him that, should he come back to the UK Super League, then we would have first option on him. As he’s entering the prime years of his playing career, I think it’s a real coup for the Betfred Super League to have a player of his calibre return to the competition.