League great Andrew Johns has taken an angry swipe at NRL player managers in the wake of the John Bateman situation that's taken some of the spotlight off the Raiders' grand final preparations.
Bateman was thrown into the media glare on Tuesday when it was reported he would consider leaving the Raiders in the off-season if he couldn't secure an upgrade.
The Englishman, who has two years left on his contract, had told NRL.com he would "have to weigh up his options" if the Raiders couldn't improve on his current deal.
Bateman's statement came after the rampaging forward confirmed that he'd recently linked up with a new player manager - Isaac Moses.
Johns says the timing of Bateman's message couldn't have been worse for a Canberra side whose sole concern should be ending a 25-year premiership drought.
“We’ve seen it all year,” Johns told Wide World of Sports.
“The player signs the contract and is happy to sign the contract for three or four years, then six months down the track when they're ’e playing well whether they go to the manager, or the manager says to them: ‘kick stones at training, we’ll get you out. We’ll get you double somewhere else’. The timing of this stinks”
Johns said it was up to the players themselves to take more of an onus on how their own contract discussions play out.
“The players have to understand they employ the player managers, the player managers don't employ them,” he added.
“And if you don’t agree with what they say, hang up on them."
“This stinks so bad. And I reckon after (the grand final) Ricky Stuart will have something to say, whether it's the people at the top of the NRL, or the club CEOs they get together, and knock this behaviour off because it’s rotten.”
Bateman insisted on Wednesday night he did not believe he would have to leave the Raiders, and nor was he concerned that it could impact his performance in Sunday's premiership decider.
"I'm not concerned about the distraction ... I'm happy to be at Canberra, I want to be at Canberra," Bateman said.
"My family love it when they come over here. One of my best mates is actually moving out in January. It's where I want to be and I can't reiterate that enough.
"The place I want to be is Canberra. My agent will be doing everything to sort out for me. (Raiders CEO) Don (Furner) and (coach) Ricky (Stuart) will be doing the exact same."
Bateman again proved his worth on Wednesday night, claiming the Dally M second-rower of the year award in his first season in the NRL.
He's been both tough and crafty playing on the edge, and has made the third most one-on-one tackles in the competition.
His breakthrough NRL campaign comes after many rugby league fans barely knew of Bateman and his success in the English Super League at Wigan.
Now, he has easily been the buy of the season.
"I never expected that (award) when I got out here in January," Bateman said.
"It's totally down to the players that I play with. Yes it's an individual award, but it's a team sport."