It was one of two big plays that shaped the outcome. The other came from Jarrod Croker when the scores were locked at 10-all. The visitors were under the pump, their 10-nil lead had evaporated, the blue and whites had all the momentum and his side was without the football. Something had to give.
Croker stripped the ball from Reece Martin and all of a sudden everything changed. In trying to steal the ball back, Canterbury conceded a penalty. Captain Croker slotted the goal that proved to be the difference.
In his return match, Bateman stayed on for the duration.
“There was no way he was not going to have an 80-minute effort,” coach Ricky Stuart said. “He is a very experienced player. When you’re recruiting players, I have a real focus on trying to recruit players who have been a winner, been involved in winning teams, winning competitions … John is a winner.”
Both teams were hoping the change of season would change their seasons. This was the first day of winter, perhaps the reason why the Bulldogs cheerleaders switched from skirts to pants at half-time. Once again, they had little to cheer for.
The result leaves them languishing in last place. As has been the case in most of their losses, they made the opposition work for the points. At some point, however, near enough won’t be good enough.
“They’re devastated,” Dean Pay said of his players. “We don’t want to be where we are.
“We’re working as hard as we possibly can to get off the bottom of the ladder. With what we’ve got – we’re young and still developing with our footy – we need to get some more consistency with what we’re doing.
“We need to keep at it, keep developing. It will turn, we’ll get a couple of the results we’re looking for.”
The salary cap has long been hailed as the great leveller of NRL talent, but on Saturday night State of Origin also played its part. It is why the bookies weren’t able to split a team sitting in spoon position with one expected to, when at full strength, contend for the top four. If ever an advertisement was needed for stand-alone Origins, this is it.
Canberra travelled up the Federal Highway without their Origin contingent of Jack Wighton, Nick Cotric and Josh Papalii. Their absence came on top of a hefty injury toll that includes Jordan Rapana, Joey Leilua, Brad Abbey and inspirational hooker Josh Hodgson. Stuart couldn’t be prouder of the job the replacements did. He may not have had many of his stars at his disposal, but their replacements could yet emerge as rising ones.
The absence of talent in Canterbury’s first-grade squad is in stark contrast to the strength of their reggies side. Corey Harawira-Naera was the latest Canterbury player demoted to the Canterbury Cup. He is in good company. Lachlan Lewis, Michael Lichaa and Kerrod Holland are among the other NRL regulars unable to crack coach Pay’s top team.
Who would win a game between the reggies and the regulars? Pay’s reggies won the curtain-raiser against Newcastle. Pay’s search for a combination that works continues.
For the second time this season, a player was called out for an alleged eye gouge. Raider Hudson Young was placed on report for a tackle on opposing forward Aiden Tolman. The veteran prop took offence to a challenge described by Rabbitohs Sam Burgess, commentating on Fox League, as “silly”.
“It doesn’t look great,” said Burgess, whose brother George copped four weeks for gouging during a Test last year.
Adrian Proszenko is the Chief Rugby League Reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald.