Tim Bateman leaving NZ with a heavy heart

11:52, May 15 2014
Tim Bateman
FAMILY MAN: Tim Bateman is putting his loved ones first by taking up an offer to play rugby in Japan.

Tim Bateman's decision to leave New Zealand has nothing to do with rugby and everything to do with family.

The Hurricanes second five-eighth has announced he will head to Japan at the end of the Super Rugby season to take up a two-year deal with the Coca Cola West Red Sparks.

Sadly, Bateman's second stint in the Fukuoka region, is because his wife Laura was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last year.

After a tough few months the couple have decided to take their family - they have two young daughters Shyla and Mylie - overseas in order to access the best possible medical treatment.

''To cut a long story short, my wife was diagnosed with MS last year and we had to make a decision based on the treatment that was not going to be available here in New Zealand for her,'' Bateman said after Hurricanes training on Wednesday.

''We had opportunities to go to a number of places where the treatment was available, which was pretty much anywhere else other than New Zealand including South Africa, Australia, UK, America. She needed to show a level of deterioration before they would fund her for treatment here, whereas we could go away and get it just about anywhere.''

The former Canterbury and Crusaders stalwart said it was difficult to leave New Zealand and their family support network, but in the end it became a ''no brainer''.

''It's been a long process and it hasn't been nice seeing her struggling a little bit and not getting what she needs, so we made the decision to go,'' he said. ''It was a tough decision. We had to juggle the fact we won't have family support when we are away [in Japan], whereas here she gets that support when I'm gone. But what's more important, treatment or help?

''Everything we read about MS is that treatment early is important, so we've decided to go with that.''

Aside from being a familiar place for the family, Bateman played for the Red Sparks from 2010 to 2012, Japan offered several other benefits, he said.

''Literally 100 metres from where we lived the leading MS specialist in Japan is there and they've said to us she will be well looked after. They are understanding with the situation and flexible with my time.

''I have a heap more time there than I do here in terms of we don't travel anywhere near as much. We have 14 games a season and six of those are away games and you are only away for one night.''

Bateman said last year had been particularly difficult, but that his wife's condition had been stable since Christmas.

In a perfect world he would love for the health restrictions to change over the next two years so he could return to play out his career in New Zealand.

The 26-year-old will be a major loss to the Hurricanes where he has been part coach, part player and entirely a professional in all he does.

His role in the current season has been restricted due to a knee injury suffered in the final training session before the first match, then a shoulder injury in his return match against the Crusaders in round six.

Since then he has been restricted to cameos off the bench as Alapati Leiua has made the midfield role his own.

Bateman finally gets another start though on Friday night against the Highlanders in one of four changes to a Hurricanes side missing hooker Dane Coles, who has been ruled out with a back injury.

Prop Jeffery Toomaga-Allen and openside Jack Lam return to the starting fifteen after being rotated onto the bench against the Rebels in Melbourne last Saturday.

Bateman's return is in part to give the physical Leiua a breather, but his skills enhance the Hurricanes in other ways.

He played a key role in the win over the Crusaders, a result that kick started the Hurricanes season, and his tactical awareness could be key against a Highlanders side that thrives on errant kicks.

Interestingly, the bench has a six forward, two back split with flanker Brad Shields (knee) and halfback Chris Smylie (hamstring) back from injury and openside Ardie Savea providing emergency cover for the wing.