By Harbour Heather
The NRL’s Integrity Unit has cleared Kieran Foran to take the field in 2017. While technically he could play next weekend against the Bulldogs in Dunedin, word from the club is that we are more likely to see him in a Warriors jersey in round 4 or 5, as they want to ensure his surgically repaired shoulder is completely ready to go.
The delay could do him some good. After a tumultuous 12 months, easing back into footy is probably the smartest play Foran could make.
When his contract was registered last month (before his final psychological assessment), the league world had plenty to say. Many, commentators and talkback callers alike, immediately catapulted the Warriors into top four contention for 2017. Warriors fans are chomping at the bit to see him running the show with Shaun Johnson, but what’s best for the team is what is best for Foran, and vice versa.
To recap Foran’s 2016 troubles:
- Relationship breakdown with the mother of his two young children
- Connections with dodgy gamblers and big betting losses
- Serious overdose on prescription medications
- Shoulder injury
- Missing rehab sessions and drinking while injured, leading to his release from Paramatta
Those are significant issues individually, let alone compounded together. When the Warriors offered him a career lifeline in the form of a 12-month contract, it gave him a chance to reconnect with his homeland, rehab his shoulder, his career, and most importantly, his life, out of the Sydney media fishbowl frenzy.
There are two major considerations Warriors fans should take into account when setting expectations for Foran’s return to the field.
Foran hasn’t played a game since May, his involvement limited to shoulder rehab and pre-season fitness work. It’s unreasonable to expect him to be tearing up the opposition from his first outing, and to solely lead the team into top four contention. No doubt he’ll show glimpses of the talent which has wowed in previous seasons, but no one should expect him to be at his best from the minute he takes the field. He’ll need to blow off the cobwebs, test the shoulder, and find his feet alongside his new team mates.
- Mental health
A lot has happened to Foran in the last year, but he’s still got a few challenges ahead of him. As if the desperate, crippling weight of the hopes and dreams of baron Warriors fans wasn’t enough, his form will be (over)analysed heavily across the Tasman. He will know this, and no doubt put pressure and benchmarks on himself as well.
He is apart from his children, who until now, he has been flying back to Australia to visit on a regular basis. He is settling into a new club routine, including the Warriors’ increased travel schedule. He has had to cut ties with people he once considered friend. He has had to provide bank statements and undergo psychological tests for the NRL Integrity Unit for months, and it can be assumed there will be some extent of ongoing monitoring. Until that is no longer part of life for him, he can’t fully feel that he’s ‘back to normal’, potentially adding more off-field stress and weight on his shoulders, a sense that he can’t just be himself and get on with it.
That said, the routine of trainings and games will be good for Foran, and getting back to what he knows and loves will no doubt be a comfort. Hopefully he can settle into this and find himself again. With reports that he may be looking elsewhere for 2018, a cynic could think Foran is only using the Warriors to re-establish his career before taking a more lucrative offer once he has proved he’s back to his best on and off the field. He may also wish to be closer to his children.
While he has denied these rumours, this shouldn’t be a concern to Warriors fans. He’s committed to the club for the year, and wants to repay the faith they showed when he didn’t have much going for him. If all that eventuates from this one-year contract is Foran getting back into the game and feeling happy in himself again, this should be enough for any league fan, no matter their colours.
After all, he’s come a long way from a hospital bed in Sydney. His life is more important than a premiership, and fans and media must remember all he’s been through as they assess his contribution this year.
Kia kaha, Kieran.
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