Canberra coach Ricky Stuart is seemingly resigned to losing star forward John Bateman after this season, describing his NRL contract fiasco as “part of the business”.
The Raiders this week confirmed Bateman has been given permission to talk to rival clubs despite having one season remaining on his current deal.
The news followed speculation the England international had sought multiple releases in an attempt to pursue a more lucrative opportunity elsewhere.
“It’s a part of the business,” Stuart said on Friday.
“It’s a very challenging time at the moment because John’s a big part of the family. I’ve got a great relationship with John, and we don’t want to lose him.
“But there’s different scenarios and circumstances around the decision, which is very unfortunate.”
Bateman has publicly declared his desire to remain in the nation’s capital, however it is believed the club has little salary-cap room to work with over the next few years.
Already this year Canberra have extended deals for captain and long-time servant Jarrod Croker and star five-eighth Jack Wighton, until the end of 2024.
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Curtis Scott, Bailey Simonsson and Joseph Tapine are also signed for at least the next two-and-a-half seasons.
Stuart and chief executive Don Furner may also face a battle to retain star winger Nick Cotric, who comes off contract at the end of this season.
“I’ve got a squad of players to worry about. I can’t take my eye off that,” Stuart said.
Bateman, the reigning Dally M second-rower of the year, has already been linked with a number of clubs, including Canterbury, St George Illawarra and Gold Coast.
Bulldogs captain Josh Jackson is a big fan of the 26-year-old’s game following his breakout season with the Raiders last year.
“He had a really good season for Canberra last year … he’s definitely a class player,” Jackson said.
“That’s what we’re after here, we’re after really good players.
“Any club that he’d be at, he would improve their roster. He’d be an excellent acquisition for us if we could get him.”