NRL season 2017: Kieran Foran's comeback 'not risky' says NZ Warriors boss
Published: February 15, 2017 - 5:19PM
Warriors CEO Jim Doyle is adamant the NRL isn't taking a risk by greenlighting Kieran Foran's return into what will be one of the best rugby league spines ever assembled.
The NRL has registered Foran's one-year contract, although the former Parramatta captain won't be able to make his Warriors debut until round three against Canterbury. When he does so full confidence pending the passing of further psychological evaluations full confidence Foran will become part of a spine that includes five-eighth Shaun Johnson, fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and hooker Issac Luke.
That is the first-choice quartet for the New Zealand international side and would rank as perhaps one of the greatest ever assembled. Such is the strength in key positions that Tuimoala Lolohea, himself a Kiwis representative capable playmaker, has been shunted to the right wing.
The Warriors axed coach Andrew McFadden after again missing the play-offs in 2016. His replacement, Stephen Kearney, has worked with the star quartet while in charge of the Kiwis. Kearney now has at his disposal three premiership winners and Johnson, considered one of the most dynamic halves in the NRL.
Some pundits have viewed Foran's registration as a risk given his well-publicised off-field issues. The premiership-winning playmaker struggled with the expectation that came with his move from Manly to Parramatta, where he was made captain on arrival but didn't see out the first year of his four-year contract. The former Sea Eagles halfback went through a messy separation from his partner and struggled with gambling and other issues. The 26-year-old was also rushed to hospital last year after a drug overdose.
However, Warriors CEO Jim Doyle is adamant Foran's return posed "no risk" to the club or the game.
"Kieran Foran left the game because he had some mental health issues," Doyle said
"He's come a long way with that and we've got independent advice to tell us and the NRL he's ready, capable and mentally strong enough to play in the NRL.
"Therefore, to me there is no risk.
"It's good news for the game to get a player like Kieran back in the game. It's a real positive."
One of the conditions of Foran's return is that he ends his association with former brothel owner and notorious punter Eddie Hayson. Doyle said Foran had made steady progress since joining the club in the off-season.
"[He's come] a long way," Doyle said. "When he first got here he would have a good day, then a bad day, good day, bad day.
"Then it went to a couple of good days and then a bad day, then a good week and then a bad day.
"He's come a long way since then, we've given him a lot of support and we have a good internal guy who works with him.
"He's been able to compartmentalise things. In the past, everything was just all too much and he can break four or five things down into little groups. It's like 'here's one we'll work on, we'll resolve that one'.
"It makes it easier to manage things and focus on what's important so he doesn't get too stressed or upset over things that aren't important."
Asked if Parramatta fans would struggle to understand how he wasn't mentally fit enough to play for them but is now in a position to represent the Warriors, Doyle said: "At the end of the day, Parramatta released Kieran Foran. Kieran asked for time off because of mental illness and Parramatta released him.
"If I was the CEO of Parramatta and I see Kieran as part of my long-term future, then in May or June of last year I would have said to Kieran 'OK, you take the rest of the year off, we'll get you some external support to help you get yourself right and in January come back into pre-season'.
"I wouldn't have released him and said 'that's it'. There were other reasons they released him, otherwise they should have kept him and given him some time off."