Kieran Foran has signed a 1 year deal with the New Zealand Warriors for the 2017 season. But what is the raw impact of this move?
Foran first needs to be given the green light by the NRL to return following a number of off-field issues which saw his departure from the Parramatta Eels earlier this season. There’s no doubt Foran is one of the most talented five-eighths on the field, but off it, he needs to re-assure the NRL that he is in the right head space to play.
The half was pursued by several clubs, notably the Bulldogs, Dragons, Rabbitohs and Storm, but ultimately it was his relationship with Warriors managing director Jim Doyle that led to Foran committing to the Warriors.
With this signing, the Warriors now have the Kiwis spine that can compete with any club in the league under the tutelage of former Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney. Foran would pair up with Kiwis halfback Shaun Johnson and combine with the Warriors’ big 2016 signings Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Isaac Luke. This season, the spine of Luke, Johnson and RTS struggled to find form and all three couldn’t stay on the field at the same time, especially with Tuivasa-Sheck’s devastating knee injury earlier in the year. But Foran’s addition, along with the return of RTS to this exciting Warriors backline provides optimism for next year and a chance for the side to make the finals for the first time in 5 years.
The signing also provides stability in the halves. Ever since James Maloney’s departure in 2011, the Warriors have struggled to find a suitable compliment to Shaun Johnson in the backline, with Chad Townsend being the closest in this case. Now Maloney and Townsend are currently combining at Cronulla and have a chance to send the Sharks to the NRL Grand Final. Meanwhile, the Warriors this season have used a carousel of halves partners for Johnson. They had Jeff Robson playing halfback in Round 1, which meant Johnson had to play in the #6 jersey. Robson didn’t fit with the Warriors’ style of play and the switch in position put Johnson’s game off early in the season. After the star playmaker returned to his coveted #7 jersey, the Warriors tried out Thomas Leuluai and Tui Lolohea, but the two were too inconsistent and I view them better off as a hooker and fullback respectively. I see a ton of potential in Ata Hingano, who showed flashes late in the season coming off the bench. However, Foran should provide the stability that allows Johnson to roam free and steer the ship.
Which leads me to this question: what about Tui Lolohea? It is reported that Lolohea’s manager was “blown away” by the announcement of Foran’s signing.
The utility back was set to be partnering Johnson in the halves with Leuluai departing for the Super League. But with Foran’s signing, it seems that Lolohea could be on the outs with the club. With Roger Tuivasa-Sheck set to return to the fullback role and the wing and centre positions seemingly locked down by Ken Maumalo, David Fusitua, Solomone Kata and Manu Vatuvei, it could leave Tui coming off the bench again as a utility, which is a disappointing thought for a special player like him. Or maybe it’s a good idea depending on how Stephen Kearney decides to utilise him in comparison to what Andrew McFadden did at the back end of the season. An option for Lolohea is to possibly go and sign with another club in search of a starting position. The idea of him locking down the fullback role at the Bulldogs? Or him pairing with Cooper Cronk or Gareth Widdop in the halves? The options are endless. The situation is a lot similar to when Kevin Locke had to make way for Sam Tomkins in 2014, leading to Locke signing with English club Salford. No one benefited here, as Tomkins didn’t live up to expectations, while Locke’s career floundered in the Super League, leading to him returning to play for his junior club the Northcote Tigers.
What if the same thing occurs here? Foran definitely suits the Warriors’ style of play, but is he mentally stable to compete? How does the move affect Tui Lolohea’s future at the club? On paper, this Warriors side is a Top 4 team with the addition of Foran. However, only time will tell if Foran’s issues will affect not only his career, but his new team as well.