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If South Sydney coach Michael Maguire is wondering where the greatest threat will come from against Manly on Friday night, he should look no further than five-eighth Kieran Foran.
Already renowned as one of the NRL’s most dogged competitors, Foran added another accomplishment to his already impressive list of achievements last weekend when he captained New Zealand for the first time following the late withdrawal of Simon Mannering.
But more than simply being in the right place at the right time, the 22-year-old’s elevation was reward for the greater responsibility he has taken on at the Sea Eagles this season with his left edge responsible for 14 of the side’s 26 tries so far in 2013.
“I think that’s the case,” Foran told NRL.com ahead of Friday’s blockbuster against the Rabbitohs at Brookvale Oval. “I think there has been a difference in my performances so far this year compared to last year. I feel like I’ve been more heavily involved.
“I’m just trying to get my hands on the footy as much as I can, rather than drifting in and out of games. It’s something I’m still working hard on with the coaches but I think it’s improving.”
Foran points to his leadership role within the Manly playing group as being of particular importance this season and despite suffering a 32-12 loss against Australia, he says the experience of captaining the Kiwis can only aid in his progression.
“Obviously I’ve been on a massive high after playing in that game and captaining them for the first time,” he said. “I think that’s good for me. I think there are a lot of positives I can take from the week and from the game as well. Hopefully I bring back some of those qualities in trying to become more of a leader at Manly.
“I mean, I was stunned when Steve [Kearney, New Zealand coach] initially told me. I couldn’t really believe it. I knew he wanted me to take up more of a leadership role through the week and I felt like I was doing that but by no means did I think if Simon was out that he was going to throw me into that role.
“It was a huge honour and a privilege. I said after the match that it was probably the proudest moment of my career so far. But it’s up to me to build on that now.”
Foran will again play a key role against Souths this week in a clash that will see one side emerge as the No.1 threat to reigning premiers Melbourne in 2013.
But while the Rabbitohs are coming off their first loss of the season – coincidentally against the Storm – Manly are riding a three-match winning streak including impressive performances over old rivals Canterbury and Cronulla.
It’s a far cry from last season when inconsistency plagued the Sea Eagles during the first half of the year,
“It’s nice to get wins at this time of year,” Foran said. “It just takes a bit of that added pressure off you. And I think we’ve played pretty well. I think our structures in defence have been very good and we’ve been laying a good platform early on in games.
“The other stuff will come. I think our attack has still been a bit off, but that will come as we play more games further into the year.
“It’s also been a real positive for us to have so many big games so early in the year. They will help get us ready for the big games later in the year. I know our guys, we really enjoy it as a team when we play in the big matches and it will be no different on Friday night.”
Foran said that the big challenge for the Sea Eagles this week will be overcoming South Sydney’s monster forward pack but insisted Manly’s big men have what it takes to stand up to the challenge.
“We’ve got to really nullify their go-forward,” he said. “Their pack is really big and strong and that’s where they seem to get all their go-forward from. Then they’ve got the skill and the class out wide to capitalise on the back of it. I think if we can try and manage their big boys as best we can and keep them down their end of the footy field, then we’ll have an impact on their outside backs.
“I’m always confident about our big boys. We’re an experienced pack and they don’t come any tougher than the guys we’ve got, so they’ll really enjoy the challenge of coming up against a big Souths pack and getting on top of them.”