7th October 2020, 12:16 | englandrl
Raiders team-mates admit England second-rower John Bateman will be missed on and off the field when he returns home after Canberra's NRL premiership campaign comes to an end.
The Raiders take on Sydney Roosters at the SCG on Friday, with the season over for one of last year's grand final rivals and the winner going through to play Melbourne a week later for a place in the 2020 decider.
After signing with Wigan to be closer to his young daughter Millie, Bateman's two-year stint with Canberra will finish either with the team's next defeat or a grand final triumph over Penrith, Parramatta or South Sydney, who are on the other side of the play-off draw.
"John has become a great mate of us all, he is a fan favourite and everyone here loves him," Raiders captain Jarrod Croker said.
"I even know pub owners in Goulburn, [about 60 miles from Canberra], who want him to go and drink their cider, they love him that much. He is going to be sorely missed but hopefully we have still got him for a couple more weeks."
Canberra fans waited after last weekend's defeat of Cronulla to cheer Bateman as he performed a lap of honour following his farewell appearance in the Australian capital and former St Helens prop Iosia Soliola paid tribute to the Bradford product.
"He is someone who never takes a backward step and I can tell you that from experience because I played for St Helens and he played for Wigan," Soliola said. "That is a massive derby and we had a bit of a run in in that game.
"I have got a lot of respect for John. He lays it all out there for the jersey, for whoever he plays for - whether it is for England, for Wigan, for Bradford or for Canberra.
"He puts all his energy out there on the field and that is why a lot of us really enjoy playing with John because you know he has got your back and you know what he is going to bring."
Croker said Bateman had a huge impact on the team in a short period of time and he was an inspiration for other players.
"He brings that edge into a team and just that winning drive," Croker said.
"He has lifted a lot of the players around here since coming into the squad with that edge and that will to win.
"We had heard a lot about him coming from England and when he got here you could just feel it straight away."
The Raiders will be looking to avenge last year's controversial 14-6 grand final loss to the Roosters and many believe the addition of English halfback George Williams could be the difference this season after he played a starring role in the elimination of Cronulla.
The Roosters are coming off an epic 29-28 loss to minor premiers Penrith but there are concerns that the back-to-back premiers may be on the wane after conceding 89 points in their last two matches.
Sonny Bill Williams and veteran hooker Jake Friend are expected to return for the match against the Raiders.
Meanwhile, Souths are brimming with confidence ahead of Saturday's elimination final clash with Parramatta at Bankwest Stadium after backing up their 60-8 thrashing of the Roosters in the final round of the regular season with a 46-20 defeat of Newcastle last weekend.
The Eels have been hit hard by injuries, with Fijian star Mika Sivo out for the season after suffering an MCL tear in last weekend's 36-24 loss to the Storm at Suncorp Stadium and fellow winger Blake Ferguson also failing to finish the match with a knee injury.
The winner of the match will face Penrith next weekend for a place in the October 25 grand final at ANZ Stadium.