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Bush to The Bachelor: 'I've been busier than Santa on the 24th'

Queenslander Luke Bateman’s life up to this point has been a rollercoaster ride – highs and lows with plenty of twists and turns.

The 28-year-old, who hails from western Queensland and started his rugby league journey at the Miles Devils – “a great club and one I have a lot of love for”, as he puts it, retired from footy last year after a decade of success.

That success included captaining the Queensland Under 18 side in 2013, playing Queensland Under 20s and playing more than 70 games for Canberra Raiders in the NRL.

“I graduated high school Friday and drove to Canberra Monday,” Bateman, who played lock, said.

QLD 18s Captain Luke Bateman

“I’ve done professional football since I was 17 years old… I never really lived a normal life."

Since his final game - for Wynnum Manly Seagulls in Round 12 of Hostplus Cup in 2022 – Bateman has been working with his dad in western Queensland.

“My life was dictated by football… my entire life has been dictated by football. So to actually start working in a real job, in a sense, in the real world, it gave me back a sense of control and freedom that I literally never had before in my entire life," Bateman, a twin who is one of five children, said.

I’ve been busier than Santa on the 24th. It’s been ridiculous.

Luke Bateman

"Dad and I contract together, we own the machinery, the gear and we contract to the mill. We’re heavy machinery contractors…. instead of digging holes or building roads, we cut timber northwest of Injune.”

Bateman said the decision to stop playing footy wasn’t an easy one, but one he was happy he made.

Playing for Canberra Raiders. Photo: NRL Imagery
Playing for Canberra Raiders. Photo: NRL Imagery

The happy-go-lucky toiler thought his time in rugby league ended when he left the Raiders at the end of 2019 but mates Sammy Scarlett, Jayden Berrell and Aaron Rockley had other ideas.

“I was going to retire... my knee sort of ended things for me and COVID really put the nail in the coffin… I moved back home and I was going to retire then,” Bateman said.

“I’d literally retired from footy and I was of the mindset of ‘I’m done’ and then a couple of mates pulled me back into it in 2021… they talked me into coming and having a run with Wynnum.”

'There was a minute there I thought I might be giving it away, but nah' - Bateman

That run with Wynnum Manly lasted one-and-a-half Cup seasons; 2021 and until Round 12 of 2022. By that point, Bateman was well and truly done.

“It was honestly a combination of two things… it was my knee…. I wasn't even training. I was just playing on the weekend, not training, taking anti-inflammatories and doing recovery and just getting through the week to week which was no good,” Bateman said.

“And my life, I was just at the point where footy had gone from a game to a chore… it was just time for me to pursue other goals and other areas of my life.

“Footy was always a limited time span and I felt like I was showing up each week for no real reason.”

Footy and what Bateman does now are “chalk and cheese… you can’t compare the two”.

“Footy is extremely tough in a lot of ways, but it's also really, really easy in a lot of other senses…  it's hard to compare… two very different lifestyles and responsibilities and commitments,” Bateman said.

This chapter of Bateman’s life includes The Bachelor, which first airs on December 3.

“It was really interesting…. my life has changed quite drastically in the space of two years, personally and career wise, as a whole, and I’d really gotten to the point in my life where I really wanted to share my life with somebody,” Bateman said.

At Wynnum Manly. Photo: Eleve Imagery
At Wynnum Manly. Photo: Eleve Imagery

“I had a really good foundation and I was very comfortable with where I was heading in life… I really wanted to bring someone else into it because I was really lonely. As you can imagine, being out in western Queensland, I was really lonely.  

“I’d been on a few dates and seeing some women, but two of my girlfriends who I’m really close with, they knew all of that and one day they sent the application to me and said ‘you should go on this’ and I said ‘if you girls do the application for me, I’ll help out with whatever you need’ and didn’t pay too much attention, then got the call from the casting team.  

“I grabbed the opportunity with both hands and it turned out to be literally one of the best things I’ve ever done in my entire life.”

Bateman said he got plenty of flack from the “footy boys” and his bushy dad at the start, but everyone had been very supportive.

“Everyone was really over the moon and excited for me because they knew I wanted a partner… everyone was very supportive of me taking the opportunity and really having a go at it," Bateman said.

“My mum was over the moon. She was really excited. My biggest supporter in it all. And my old boy, don’t get me wrong, he was really supportive too, but he grew up on properties, he’s lived in the bush his entire life and managed cattle properties, so reality TV is completely foreign to him, so he was just like ‘oh you’re an idiot but I’ll support ya’.

“It was incredible. The best thing I’ve ever done in my life. It was amazing.

“The whole process was just surreal and obviously something very new… very exciting, very new, very challenging too… really challenging in a lot of ways.

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“Meeting the girls at the beginning and getting to know them… it forces you to really take a better understanding of yourself when you’re getting questions asked of you every day about your life and what you want and your feelings. It really forces you to know who you are to be able to articulate that and get that across to multiple people.

“People can expect a lot of laughs, a lot of smiles, a few tears and hopefully a very happy, genuine person looking for a partner in life.”

Bateman – determined not to give anything away about what his future holds – said “you’ll have to watch the finale to find out”.

“I think my life got to a point where I’m very business focused. I’ve achieved a lot personally in terms of my childhood dreams and stuff like that, but now I’ve really gotten to a point in my life where I'm focused on creating a very sustainable lifestyle financially for my future wife and future children down the line,” Bateman, choosing his words wisely, said.

Wesley Senna Cortes, Ben Waddell and Luke Bateman. Photo: Supplied
Wesley Senna Cortes, Ben Waddell and Luke Bateman. Photo: Supplied

“My goal is just to sort of continue down that path and establish myself in business for a long-term sustainable income and lifestyle.

“I would have say the experience was incredible and it was a non-stop ride of unexpected twists and turns that all culminates in a really fulfilling experience.

“My childhood dream was playing football and I achieved very highly in that field. But as a whole, this was the number one experience in my life.”

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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