NRL great Paul Gallen says he ‘doesn’t care’ why new signing John Bateman has yet to feature for the Wests Tigers, following an extraordinary outburst from club chairman Lee Hagipantelis, but says the confusion surrounding the status of the marquee signing is hurting club supporters.
Officially, Bateman is “acclimatizing” after arriving from the UK just two weeks before the start of the season. But rumors have emerged that the 29-year-old could be out with an ankle injury.
Ahead of the club’s game against Newcastle, Hagipantelis called on those pushing the ankle injury line to “put up or shut up”.
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“If any section of the media has evidence to establish that what I have said publicly is false or misleading, then I would invite them to provide [the] same for me,” he said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
“I would also caution anyone against publicly suggesting that I have lied or misled our supporters. Some may interpret these comments as defamatory.”
Writing in his weekly column for Vast world of sportsGallen noted that the whole saga was demoralizing for fans.
“I don’t care why Bateman isn’t playing,” he said.
“If he has an ankle injury, well that’s life. If they get him through some pre-season to get him fit where he needs to be, that’s fine too.
“The hardest thing for Tigers fans is not knowing which one to believe.”
Gallen explained that Bateman’s time with Canberra in 2019-20 meant he was the best judge of his fitness level, before pointing out that losses to Gold Coast and Newcastle made his absence even more visible.
“If he hasn’t had a good pre-season, I can understand the decision to wait,” Gallen said.
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“He’s played in the NRL before, so he knows how fit and strong he has to be. I have no problem with that.
“It’s a long and difficult season, and if you haven’t had a good preparation, you’re going to get injured and you’ll potentially be out much longer than you would have been if you had waited.
“They’re looking at the long game, but I guess that’s a bit critical because they’re 0-2. If they had beaten the Titans and the Knights, nobody would say anything.
Gallen wrote that the Tigers always seem to be in the midst of one crisis or another, which explains why the club haven’t played finals football since 2011.
During this period they have had eight different head coaches – Tim Sheens (2012), Mick Potter (2013-14), Jason Taylor (2015-2017), Andrew Webster (2017), Ivan Cleary (2017-2018) , Michael Maguire (2019-2022), Brett Kimmorley (2022) and Ben Gardiner (2022). Ironically, Sheens is now back in charge.
“A big part of that (drama) is the fact that it’s easy to fire a team when they’re down,” Gallen said.
“When things are not going well, people look for the reasons.
“Their composition, in my opinion, still needs a lot of work. I said last year that there was not a single player at the club who could attract other good players.
“They have Api Koroisau for 2023 and they can use that as a selling point now I don’t know what they paid for Api but I’m sure it was over what they had to do to get a player like him at the club.
“At some point it will come back to bite them, because that’s how the salary cap works.”
Gallen also said expectations were “too high” if fans are looking for another new signing, former Parramatta striker Isaiah Papali’i, to single-handedly make a meaningful difference.
“It’s not fair to him,” Gallen said.
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. saga Wests Tigers John Bateman demoralizing for the fans according to Paul Gallen
. Wests Tigers John Bateman saga demoralizing fans Paul Gallen