John Bateman at centre of fresh uproar after Wests Tigers Anzac jersey drama

The controversy at the NRL club has deepened in the wake of another questionable detail.

Pictured right, English Wests Tigers star John Bateman promoting the NRL club's controversial Anzac jerseys.
Eyebrows were raised when the Wests Tigers used English star John Bateman to promote their controversial Anzac NRL jerseys (right). Pic: Getty/Wests Tigers

English recruit John Bateman has been caught in the middle of the Anzac jersey firestorm at the Wests Tigers, with the embattled NRL club forced into a huge backflip over their controversial commemorative playing strip. The Wests Tigers have issued an apology and been forced to scrap plans to play in the specially designed jerseys for their round 8 match against Manly, two days before Anzac Day.

The Tigers jersey design sparked uproar this week when it was revealed the image of the soldiers and the helicopter on the front of the shirt were actually American, rather then Australian. Fans and commentators across the NRL world slammed the Tigers for the "embarrassing" oversight, with the club claiming the jersey was designed in conjunction with the Holsworthy Army Barracks.

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NRL 360 co-host Paul Kent disputed that version of events from the club and claimed he was told by the Australian Defence Force that no one at Holsworthy Army Barracks had been consulted about the jerseys. Discussing the furore on Wednesday night's program, the panel also took aim at the Tigers for using Bateman to model the controversial jersey.

The Daily Telegraph’s Michael Carayannis questioned why the Tigers would use an English player to promote a jersey designed around Anzac Day, instead of one of the many Australian or New Zealand players at the club. “What I don’t understand, can someone explain to me why John Bateman, an Englishmen, fronted the unveiling of this jersey?” Carayannis queried.

“For the ANZAC jersey, that for me sums it up, I can get the error that’s been made but to come out, and with all due respect to John Bateman, there’s a lot of Kiwis, a lot of Aussies in that Tigers side. South Sydney wouldn’t have an indigenous jersey and just send Damien Cook.”

The finger of blame has inevitably been pointed at Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe for the embarrassing oversight, with Fox League's James Hooper describing the club's administration as a "complete rabble". Hooper also referenced last year's huge blunder from the Tigers after unveiling their $78 million Centre of Excellence, where the club mistakenly credited Wests Tigers legend Benji Marshall with winning a premiership at the Dragons.

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“The Tigers front office at the moment is a complete rabble, you can go to this jumper, you can go to last year there was a lot of pomp and ceremony about the unveiling of the $75 million Centre of Excellence,” Hooper said.“They stuffed up on one of the walls, they had Benji Marshall winning a premiership with St George Illawarra, how does that happen?

“So to Justin Pascoe’s cheer squad with the pompoms, who always champion the fact ‘oh no, in terms of the profit and loss sheet he is doing a wonderful job, he’s not responsible for the football department’. Well surely this falls under his imprimatur, this is the front office, this is the finite detail that a CEO and the CEOs at all the good clubs are across. This doesn’t happen on anybody else’s watch.”

Seen here, Wests Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe.
Wests Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe has been under fire after a series of controversies at the NRL club. Pic: Getty (Jason McCawley via Getty Images)

The fresh furore comes after a tumultuous start to the season, with questions arising about coach Tim Sheens after the club fell into an 0-5 hole. CEO Justin Pascoe has also drawn unwanted headlines, while fullback Daine Laurie drew the ire of fans by 'liking' a video of a try scored against the Tigers by the Broncos.

Kent said suggestions from the Tigers that they consulted the Holsworthy Army Barracks and had the controversial jerseys approved was simply not true. “The Tigers simply went and got a stock image off the internet, designed the jersey themselves and sent it off to Steeden who printed the jersey up," he said on NRL 360.

"There is also a suggestion in the statement yesterday that it was purchased under the license of the official apparel partner. That’s not true. It was sent to Steeden by the Tigers. So the Tigers are a little bit slippery with their version of events."

Kent agreed the Anzac controversy was another example of the incompetency of the NRL club's administration. “It is dangerous and I think it is symbolic of a lot of things that are happening at the club as far as their attention to detail and what they believe people should know,” Kent said.

“Their version of events, I think they initially got caught out where they realised they had the wrong image on the jersey. They have tried to move away from that and not link it to ANZAC day. The Diggers are in outrage because it is an Anzac jersey. It is not Remembrance Day. It is not remembrance of all soldiers. It is the Anzac legend. It is the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp... The Defence Force has shot down what was basically their last straw of hope that they had collaborated with Holsworthy Army Barracks, which the Defence Force said they clearly did not.”

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