Wigan Warriors have won the chase for Bradford Bulls’ promising back-row forward John Bateman.
The 20-year-old England academy captain, who has been on the wanted list of a host of Super League clubs including Warrington Wolves and Huddersfield Giants, has signed a three-year contract with the champions that has an option for a fourth season at the DW Stadium.
Wigan have paid an undisclosed transfer fee for Bateman, who had two years left on his deal with the Bulls.
"I am pleased to have acquired John, especially when he has attracted so much interest from other Super League clubs," said Wigan coach Shaun Wane.
"He is a player that I rate very highly. I also see lots of areas where he will improve. As he matures with us, he will be a good asset in our quest to continually challenge for honours."
Bateman, who stayed loyal with Bradford through their financial crisis, said: "I am grateful to Wigan for giving me the opportunity to play at such a successful club and I am looking forward to this new challenge in my career.
"I would like to thank everyone at Bradford for allowing me this opportunity and hope I can play my part in winning silverware with the Warriors."
Bateman, who led the England Academy side on tour to Australia last year, made only 14 appearances for the Bulls in 2013 due to a spate of injuries but Wigan say he is now fully fit and will join the squad for the start of pre-season training at Orrell later this month.
He is Wigan's sixth new recruit for 2014 following the acquisition of Dan Sarginson, Tony Clubb, Matt Bowen, Eddy Pettybourne and Sam Hopkins and will be a straight replacement for Chris Tuson, who is moving to Hull FC, but he has been warned he will have to go back to basics initially.
Wigan rugby manager Kris Radlinski said: "We intend to strip him down and build him back up, educating him on preparing his body for top-grade rugby league along the way.
"He has played a lot of rugby at a young age and has taken a few bangs. We will be slow and thorough in his development and will not rush or pressure him."
The Bulls say they agreed to release Bateman after he submitted the latest of a series of transfer requests.
Bradford chairman Ryan Whitcut said: "On a number of occasions over the past two years, John had put in the request to be transferred from the Bulls and the new board and I agree that, unless a player wants to be here 100 per cent, that player may have an unsettling effect on the squad and coaching staff around them.
"The agreed fee is an undisclosed sum but will benefit the squad in the long run and allow head coach Francis Cummins to add to the dynamics of the group if he feels he needs to.
"With Frank Winterstein, Dale Ferguson, Danny Addy, James Donaldson and the many more back rowers we have available, we know we have strong cover in this position."