FORMER Bradford Bulls superstar John Bateman has admitted he lets his grandma keep all of his losers medals - but says he is determined to earn winners silverware with Canberra Raiders next year.

In a feature-length interview with the T&A, Bateman insisted that “no-one remembers you coming second” and said he hadn’t even properly looked at his consolation prize from Canberra’s NRL Grand Final defeat to Sydney Roosters in October until he came back to Bradford a couple of months ago.

He often goes back to boyhood club Bradford Dudley Hill, where he acted as water-carrier during their charity friendly with West Bowling on December 28 and still regularly speaks to good friend George Flanagan, recently asking the Bulls hooker about how his old side are getting on ahead of the new season.

Another close mate of his is Canberra team-mate and fellow Bradford boy Elliott Whitehead, who started out at Bowling, with Bateman expressing his delight at getting the chance to play club rugby alongside him again in the back row.

Discussing life at Canberra alongside Whitehead, Bateman said: “Once Elliott and I left Bulls, I never thought I’d have the chance to play club rugby with him again.

“But I got to do that all last year and hopefully will again in 2020. It’s fantastic to have someone from the same area, and with the same goals, in the team alongside me.

“We’re now in the back row together for England too, which is a boyhood dream. I still remember us going to training together in Bradford all those years ago.”

Bateman’s mood soured when talking about Canberra’s agonising 14-8 defeat to Sydney in the Grand Final, saying: “No-one remembers you coming second. Finishing first is what I’m all about.

“Whenever I’ve lost in Grand Finals (his Wigan side were beaten 22-20 by Leeds Rhinos at Old Trafford in 2015), I’ve always watched my opponents celebrating, so it sticks with me.

“My grandma takes all my losers medals off my hands, including the Canberra one. When I came home two months ago, that was the first time I’d looked at it.

“I suppose there’ll be ups and downs in any season, but the goal is to get silverware this year.

“It’s good out there in Canberra, and it’s where I want to be rugby wise. I enjoyed my first year, given that I was taking a step into the unknown and there’s people who’ll write you off.

“It’s a good test. It’s tough to take losing a final, and we only just missed out, but we have a strong team and I’m looking forward to getting back.”

That is not to say Bateman has not enjoyed Christmas back in Bradford, with his appearance at Dudley Hill’s game with Bowling hardly surprising given the affection he has for them.

He said: “They have a few lads down there that I’ve grown up and I’ve been on the pathway with them. My brother Kyle is still in the team too. The club played a big part in my career and I get to go down there when I can.

“I know Dudley Hill like the back of my hand, but going back there, they’ve got a few kids coming through and if you look at West Bowling, they’ve got a young team that’s been improving year on year.

“Some of them could flourish at reserve grade or U18s level at Bulls under Leigh Beattie, who is a great person to have down there.”

Speaking of Bulls, Bateman talked fondly of his grandma again, saying: “I grew up watching them so I always keep an eye on them.

“My grandma’s still a season ticket holder. She goes to all the home games and she’s got her ticket for this coming season too.

“I don’t know the ins and outs of Bulls, but I’m aware that they have new ownership. George Flanagan is a close mate though, and I have spoken to him while I’ve been home.

“He’s told me they’re back in training and are looking forward to the new season. I wish them all the best.”

Bulls will be aiming to make a long-awaited return to Super League this year. Bateman experienced top-flight rugby league at Bradford for three years, before leaving to join Wigan for £70,000 at the end of 2013.

Bulls commentator Mick Gledhill called that deal the “steal of the century” when naming Bateman at loose forward in his team of the decade. He also recalled Bateman’s barnstorming debut in the snow against Halifax on Boxing Day in 2010 as a 17-year-old.

Asked whether games like that helped shape his career, Bateman said: “You do take things from games like that, and my official debut away at Catalans.

“I went full-time straightaway and I’d always wanted to play in the first team for Bulls.

“But really, back in the day, Dudley Hill were playing in a tough league and they were the ones who taught me not to give up and instilled that winning mentality.

“I’m still close to people down there, and they’re probably the club that made me.”

From Dudley Hill to Australia, via Bulls and Wigan. It has been quite the journey for Bateman, and one that is far from finished yet.