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A SUMMER spent with the world’s number one team, punctuated by a dream two-week trip to England, has bright young half Kieran Foran primed for a breakout season with Manly’s Toyota Cup team.

Foran was impressive last season as the junior Sea Eagles stumbled early before recovering impressively, beating competition heavyweights Penrith and Canberra as the year progressed, before they narrowly missed a finals spot.

The talented Kiwi believes Manly has a squad that can make a real rumble in the youth competition, and having spent time with the Sea Eagles’ top squad in the off-season he reckons there is a lot he can bring to 2009.

“The off-season’s been really good, it’s been my first off-season in fulltime (playing), so the last 12 weeks spending time with all the boys has been really good,” Foran enthuses.

“Especially since we’ve had Joey (Johns) doing work with us as well. That’s been unreal working with him.”

Foran finished the year with 18 try assists, putting him 10th overall in the Toyota Cup, but with the help of rugby league legend Andrew Johns, and having worked closely with the Manly playmaking brains trust of Matt Orford, Jamie Lyon and Des Hasler, those stats are expected to improve.

“Joey really runs over the basics with us, like making you focus on the tempo of play and your overall awareness of the game,” the 18-year-old says.

“And where to put plays on at certain stages of the match. And he’s helped us break things down with our kicks.”

The result is a rebuilt Foran, who also toured England as a part of Manly’s successful World Club Challenge squad, ready to lead Manly to the finals.

“We are telling ourselves and setting that standard that we want to be a benchmark team this year,” he says.

“We know we had the side last year to do something but we just didn’t execute it well enough. Players-wise I think we can do some damage… I think, potentially, we’ve got a side that can definitely go top four.”

Do you have first grade ambitions this year?

I am hungry for it… but our first grade team is an exceptionally good team. I mean, they’re world champions, right? They’re the benchmark, and to fit into that side, you’ve got to know that you can add something. And the biggest thing for me is to know that when I do get my chance I want to know that I’m going to add something to that team. So I don’t know when that will be, or how far down the track I will be, but I know that if I can play good footy in the -20s and an opportunity arises from that, that I can make the most of it.

What is it like working with Andrew Johns?

Amazing! I think he did about five or six weeks work with us before we went to England, and he’s been really good. I’ve noticed some improvements in my kicking game in training. Maybe not so much in the game I played in England, which was a lot tougher… but there has been lots of improvement in my game from training over the last 12 weeks fulltime. It’s been good with Joey but I’ve just learned heaps just off everyone, all the boys and coaching staff in general.

What was England like? They’ve got some passionate fans there!

We had a civic reception thing with the Leeds Rhinos which was something new for me, but that World Club Challenge game… we were sitting on the sidelines and that was just crazy. The atmosphere there was insane, I think there were 30,000 fans at the game. The atmosphere was just unbelievable – something I’ve never experienced before.

Footy can be pretty intense; how do you get away and unwind?

I enjoy spending time with my family and mates when I’m not playing footy. I love fishing as well so when I’m back home in New Zealand I go fishing quite often because both my uncles have boats. But I might only get back there three or four times a year, so sometimes I go just off the rocks down at Freshwater or try my luck at Narrabeen Lake. I’ve only really caught little things there! I love doing outdoors stuff, like going to the beach… but I won’t go into the water: I’m too scared of sharks so I refuse to go surfing! I wanted to get into it but with all these shark attacks, I don’t think I will anymore…

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