Newsroom sports editor Steve Deane says it’s no surprise that the Warriors’ potential saviour failed to come through
The folly of the notion that Kieran Foran can somehow ‘save’ the Warriors was brutally exposed last night.
A week of building anticipation over what Foran might offer a team still struggling to find its rhythm came to a shuddering halt moments before kick-off at the Jubilee Oval when Foran tore a hamstring in the pre-match warm-up.
Having presumably spent a good chunk of their week working on how to integrate Foran into the side, his withdrawal was a major blow for the Warriors. But it wasn’t exactly a surprise.
This column noted on Friday that Foran has a history of chronic hamstring issues and that, given he hadn’t played a match in over a year, it was concerning that he was not deemed fully fit until round four.
Whether Foran was in fact fully fit or instead attempted to rush back after witnessing his new team’s struggles without him is now a moot point. He didn’t make it through the warm-ups, and now faces another period of rehab.
The Warriors will be lucky if their one-season-wonder signing makes it out of the blocks at all in the opening third of the season.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t hard to see this coming. Foran’s introduction at his last club Parramatta was similarly disrupted by a hamstring complaint. Last March Foran spoke candidly about his hamstring issues and how they related to a long-standing back injury.
“All I know is I have been prone to hamstrings since 2009,” Foran told the Sydney Morning Herald. “It was when I did a slipped disc in my back. I got a bulging disc in the L5 in my back. I did that when I was at Manly in the first year of first grade. Ever since then I have torn hammies. Generally it has been either side.”
Both Manly and Parramatta put significant effort into trying to solve the issue, without success. We can now add the Warriors to that list – making it three clubs that have struggled to get and keep Foran in the physical shape necessary to play in the NRL.
Foran’s appearance stats are concerning. In 2013 he played a career-high 27 matches. In 2014 the number declined to 22. A year later it was 19. Last year it was nine. That is the profile of an athlete in physical decline. It’s hard to know how, if at all, his physical woes have influenced Foran’s other struggles. But he sure looked mentally tortured sitting on the bench next to an equally dejected Jim Doyle on Sunday night.
Foran’s influence on the Warriors may yet transpire to be hugely positive, but a saviour he is not.
There are teams in the NRL that can deal with the disruption caused by the late scratching of a key player moments before a tough game in hostile territory. The Warriors aren’t one of them.
The 14-points they coughed up in the early going through a combination of errors, ill-discipline and confused defending were a dagger blow from which they were never likely to recover. A highly encouraging spell in the middle of the match – when for the first time this season the Warriors played with sufficient ruck speed – ended with an errant Tui Lolohea fourth-tackle grubber. The try the Dragons scored from the resulting seven tackle set was the dagger blow, but the damage was done much earlier.
It takes a special team to shrug off the sort of scoreboard pressure the Warriors placed on themselves – a team like Melbourne Storm. The masters of the good start to a season posted their fourth impressive win despite coughing up an early 0-14 lead to the inspired Tigers.
The Storm were dreadful early but, for a team playing with confidence and belief, a bad 30-minute period is merely a minor hurdle, and they cantered home against a Tigers side that will now be eyeing the fixture list for its chance to play the Warriors (hard luck fellas it’s round 26). For a team like the Warriors – which has now won just one of its last eight matches – giving up a 14-point start is a death sentence.
Things will improve this season. The players’ attitudes look fine. They’re having a real dig, and that will translate into results soon enough. In a perverse way, Foran’s misfortune may actually help. There is no white knight riding in to save the day. There never was. The players know that now.
We all do.