Raiders Bateman defends Whitehead for hit

Melissa Woods

Canberra lock Luke Bateman has defended NRL teammate Elliott Whitehead, who was accused of a cheap shot for his off-the-ball hit on Tom Burgess during their loss to South Sydney.

Whitehead knocked Burgess to the ground as the Rabbitohs were attacking the line, despite the prop not being involved in the play.

The England Test player was charged with dangerous contact but took the early guilty plea so is free to face last year's NRL grand finalists North Queensland in Townsville on Saturday.

In the wake of stinging criticism from commentators such as Brett Finch and Michael Ennis, Raiders coach Ricky Stuart accused Burgess of laying down and exaggerating the impact of Whitehead.

Bateman also defended his teammate.

"It's a tough game and Elliott's not the kind of bloke who would do something like that, it's not in his character," Batemen said on Monday.

"But everyone's entitled to their opinion."

Whitehead said he was covering Burgess in case Greg Inglis off-loaded the ball and he pulled out of the tackle, but too late the avoid the collision.

Following their 20-point loss to Souths, the Raiders face a tough trip north after the Cowboys finally found some form against Gold Coast.

Bateman said it was important his team responded quickly to their poor showing and got their season back on track.

"In terms of our season we've really got to start turning things around," he said.

"You don't want to get to round 10 or 12 and have your season pretty much in tatters so we've got a lot of ground to make up and it will be a big challenge against the Cowboys, but it's a bit of a must-win for us."

Bateman felt the team, who are two wins and five losses from their seven games, were close to a finding a run of good form.

"There were some good patches on the weekend but we've got to start being more consistent," he said.

"I imagine they (Cowboys) feel in a similar position - they're a team who's got to start winning games and get a roll on, so it will be two teams quite desperate for the win."