DRAGONS prop turned brewer Greg Bateman has set a target of raising £1million for mental health initiatives through his beer business after his struggles with depression and anxiety.

The 31-year-old will make his second appearance for the region at Ulster this weekend after a summer move from Leicester.

He will go from playing in the Guinness PRO14 with Doom Bar on his chest to focusing on his own beer with the launch of People’s Captain rapidly approaching on November 4.

“Rugby is one of the best jobs in the world but it doesn't last forever,” said Bateman. “I have had an interest in business for a long time and have done lots of different things, and a hobby had always been craft brewing.

“I did a few brews with local brewers in Leicester and called it the People’s Captain, because that is one of my self-proclaimed nicknames.

“I made a couple of beers that just went really, really well and then during lockdown I had the opportunity to rethink everything and have a good look at it.

“I ended up teaming up with a guy who was the ex-head of strategy for a big international beer brand. We put our heads together with my blue-sky thinking and visions and his granular, nausy detail.”

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Bateman, who studied business administration at De Montfort University in Leicester, isn’t driven by lining his pockets.

In the summer of 2019 the front rower posted on social media about how he had been affected by depression and anxiety.

Bateman revealed that he had taken medication along with talk therapy “to start levelling me out”.

Those struggles have led to his target of raising a seven-figure sum through the business and fundraising events to help those suffering from similar issues.

“I said that if I was going to do something again and run my own ship again I needed to have a purpose that's something bigger than just flogging cans of beer,” he said.

“I have had my difficulties with mental health in the past and I decided that as part of the process we would set up the People’s Captain Foundation.

“We want to raise £1million for mental health initiatives, whether they are existing or new ones.

“I am in a space now where i am in a much better place to do something about it, so I am pretty fired up for it.”

“The weird thing about depression and anxiety is that I thought I was probably the only one who had every felt that way. It’s only through talking to a few mates that I realised it was a way bigger issue.

“I just thought that if I felt like a bit of a fool for a week for being open about how I was feeling and it helped one person feel that they are not on their own then it’s entirely worth doing.

“The support that the Leicester community gave me, and the wider community as well, was fantastic.”

It was that support that made the manner of his summer departure from Welford Road all the more painful.

Bateman was one of five players to leave the Tigers over a pay cut dispute, with legal proceedings limiting what he can say on the exit.

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“The circumstances were quite difficult and I am not really in a position to comment on that,” said the prop. “But on a personal note it was particularly sad and obviously I didn't want to leave in that way.

“I've got a lot of friends there and people who I care very deeply about, and the supporters were incredibly kind to me in general as a rugby player for the club but also in a difficult time in my personal life as well.

“It's sad from that point of view but unfortunately the rugby landscape changed very quickly overnight for a lot of people and I am very fortunate that there was an opportunity for me to come to the Dragons.”

From a club with two Heineken Cups pride of place in the trophy cabinet to a region whose sole piece of silverware is the Singha Premiership 7s trophy.

Bateman has joined for the second season under director of rugby Dean Ryan, going from a team trying to return to past glories to one trying to achieve it for the first time.

“After a chat with Dean it was interesting to speak to somebody who has a vision for something that is beyond week to week, game to game,” said the front rower, who has also played for London Welsh, Bath and Exeter.

“What Dean is trying to build here is almost a dynasty and for me in the later stages of my career I really want to be part of something where we are growing and getting better each week.

“We have got a really young but exciting group and there is a lot of potential and opportunity, and hopefully there is something that I can add to.”

“Leicester has a big history and they are proud of what they have achieved,” he continued. “Without sounding too blunt, the Dragons probably aren't and they are looking to start building that history and things they are proud of.

“It’s important that we keep learning and growing but don’t just look at the big picture all the time – there are still games that need to be won every week.”

Surrey-born Bateman, who qualifies for Wales through his grandmother, admits the prospect of working his way to Test rugby was an added incentive in taking up the Dragons’ offer.

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To do that he will have to displace a club great in Brok Harris after concentrating on being a loosehead.

“It's good to have flexibility but in the past I have maybe suffered because of that,” said Bateman, who played hooker and tighthead as well.

“You can sometimes be seen as a jack of all trades but settling in that loosehead spot has been beneficial and that's where the opportunity is here.

“It's great to talk about Welsh-qualification but Brok is a class operator and has been here a long time. He is a quality player and I am here to push for a place, which will only improve the group.

“The best environments I have been in have strong competition, so if I can push Brok to be better and Josh Reynolds can push me to be better then happy days.”

From November 4, Dragons fans will be able to raise a can of People’s Captain to that sentiment.

How Bateman describes the four People’s Captain beers…

“We’ve got an American pale ale with a lot of citrus notes, a milk stout that isn’t very bitter at all with natural sweetness from the lactose and a blueberry, caramel aftertaste.

“There’s a New England pale ale that Manu (Tuilagi) helped me create with some inspiration from the tropics with passion fruit and mango and a lager, Stereotype, that is very crisp and refreshing with nectar fruits on the nose.”