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John Bateman returns to help Raiders to win

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Ricky Stuart says he was concerned about John Bateman’s fitness in his first NRL game this year but the second-rower was one of Canberra’s best.

Bateman put to bed questions over his commitment to Canberra and his fitness with a starring role in the Raiders’ tight win over North Queensland.

The England international played his first game of the year after two rounds of shoulder surgery and enduring plenty of contract speculation before signing a long-term deal with Super League club Wigan.

But the second-rower managed the full 80 minutes in the Townsville heat, making 30 tackles, the second-most runs and run metres in his team and a try-assist.

Bateman found centre Curtis Scott, who managed to fend off winger Murray Taulagi to score, with the conversion by Jarrod Croker giving his team the 14-12 win.

Scott also had a hand in their first try, with the match his best performance since his switch from Melbourne.

“It came off Johnny Bateman and Curtis did a really good job to get the ball down,” Stuart said.

“Having Johnny back really stiffened that right edge up.

“Good players make the best of limited opportunities.”

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Stuart said he was really pleased for Bateman after so long on the sidelines and admitted he was concerned how his fitness would hold up.

“I was concerned all week about playing him too early because he hadn’t had a lot of training but he handled the speed and intensity of the game really well,” the coach said.

“He actually had some really good carries and took a load off some of the boys and he had the right enthusiasm and energy and that was really important for us.”

Despite getting the win – their third on the trot – Stuart was far from happy with the performance.

“They didn’t let us play well and got in our face but we’ve got to counteract that.

“I’m not taking any credit away from the Cowboys but we can play better football by just being smarter with lots of our play.”

© AAP