There is no fairytale element to Kieran Foran’s return to the NRL.
The gifted 26-year-old might well return to the rugby league field for the first time in almost a year on Sunday. He might engineer an extremely rare Warriors win against the Dragons at the graveyard that is Jubilee Oval. He might even show enough to suggest that he is indeed the missing cog at the Warriors – that under his tenacious direction the club can emerge from its half-decade slumber.
Heck, he might even guide the Warriors to a premiership. But not even that would produce the neatly bookended fairytale comeback that most Kiwi league fans would wish for one of this country’s finest players.
Because on-field success has never been Foran’s problem. From a Grand Final victory in 2011 as a 22-year-old to winning a Four Nations title with the Kiwis in 2014, Foran has had plenty to celebrate. More victories and baubles – be it with the Warriors this season or wherever he decides to head next – won’t guarantee Foran’s redemption and rehabilitation.
It’s the game of life where he has struggled. From his relationship breakdown, rehab stint, associations with dubious characters, high stakes gambling and match-fixing probes , those struggles have been intensely public.
Foran has satisfied the NRL that he is now mentally and morally fit to return to the field, but only he will know how fully the issues that led to his life unravelling have been resolved. Given the pressures of his job, we can but hope he is fully on track.
It is often said in these situations that returning to play can be a release. That, on the field, players can discover an element of freedom from their troubles. It would be nice to think that that would be the case with Foran. But, let’s face it, filling out a Warriors jersey hasn’t exactly been a happy place for anyone in recent times.
Foran will be under the pump sooner rather than later. There are also significant questions about his ability to handle the physical rigours of the NRL. A recurrent hamstring issue plagued him before his off-field issues came to light, severely limiting his ability to string together consecutive performances.
It is also a concern that, after almost a year out, he has spent the first four weeks of the season recovering from a shoulder injury. It is possible that, after 156 NRL games and 30 tests, Foran’s body can no longer endure the demands his rugged approach to the game places on it.
Is he still the same player? Who knows? Let’s hope so. The Warriors need Foran and, for now at least, Foran needs the Warriors.
It would be nice to think that both parties – who are equally in need of redemption – will end 2017 feeling good about how things worked out.