Star back-rower John Bateman has slammed "bullshit" rumours he wants out of the Canberra Raiders as the title contenders prepare to relaunch their NRL campaign.
Bateman found himself in the headlines on Friday afternoon amid reports he had requested a release from his Raiders contract, which runs until the end of 2021, four times since October.
But Raiders chief executive Don Furner has brushed off suggestions the 26-year-old Dally M second-rower of the year wants to leave the club, adamant he will be in lime green for the duration of his contract.
"Never once have I asked for a release. Bullshit story," Bateman wrote on Twitter.
Bateman's manager Isaac Moses denies the report, which took Furner by such surprise he thought recently released Raider Luke Bateman was the man in question.
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"When I got a question about it I thought it was about Luke Bateman, and I thought 'he's already had a release'," Furner said.
"John has never come in and asked, he has never sent a text, an email, or asked for any release. There was speculation about him at the end of last season because he had such a great season.
"He is with us until the end of 2021. There was speculation last year he had a get-out clause and all those sorts of things, but he didn't, he doesn't, and he hasn't asked.
"Meeting four times? It just does my head in."
Bateman will miss Canberra's round three clash against the Melbourne Storm on May 30 as he continues to recover from shoulder surgery.
The Saturday night showdown will be televised on Fox Sports, which is where Raiders fans will again grow accustomed to seeing their team in 2020.
The Raiders have had their free-to-air exposure slashed from eight games to three in the NRL's revamped 20-round fixture.
Channel Nine has shunned the Raiders despite their premiership favouritism and run to last year's grand final in favour of powerful clubs in Brisbane and Sydney.
The Broncos have 15 free-to-air games in a 20-round season, while Parramatta have 13, the Storm and South Sydney 12, and the Sydney Roosters 11.
Canberra have slipped so far down the radar the only teams with fewer free-to-air fixtures are the New Zealand Warriors (1) and Gold Coast Titans (1).
Furner has grown frustrated with the way the Raiders have been neglected by Channel Nine, who did not respond to requests for comment, but is adamant "it's their loss".
"If you go back through The Canberra Times over the past 15 or 16 years, around February each year when the draw would come out we would say the same thing," Furner said.
"It's very disappointing for our sponsors, but we're used to it. Unfortunately Channel Nine doesn't take into account our reach into regional areas where we rate really well.
"The old WIN TV, we rated really well on, but that's not Channel Nine. It's Sydney and Brisbane, it's not regional.
"We rate really well regionally, as our figures on Fox Sports show. It is what it is, it's their loss because we're a good team to watch. Our fans can watch us on Fox Sports."