Elliott: Pressure on Eels halves to perform

Confirmation of Kieran Foran's move to the Eels from 2016 this week puts added pressure on current halves Chris Sandow and Corey Norman as coach Brad Arthur weighs up his options for next year.

That's the opinion of former NRL coach Matt Elliott in this week's column in Big League as he weighs up the ramifications of the departure from Manly of both Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans at the end of the season.

Leaving the Sea Eagles' nest not only puts coach Geoff Toovey under pressure to formulate a new halves combination but shines the spotlight squarely on not only Sandow and Norman but also the Titans' pairing of Aidan Sezer and Daniel Mortimer.

Elliott believes that not only do the external pressures of contract negotiations start to weigh heavily – both Sandown and Sezer are off contract at their respective clubs at the end of the season – but the need to perform for their coach looms large.

"The Eels' current halves Corey Norman and Chris Sandow have started the season very positively, even though they were on the end of a loss last week," Elliott says in Big League, on sale from Thursday.

"However, at some stage one of these guys is going to have to acknowledge that he is making way for Foran, who arrives on a big deal and will place some pressure on the club’s salary cap. 

"Beyond just being aware of this possibility, more is put on the player’s plate as their mangers start to make contact with other clubs to set up meetings for future deals. 

"The question is whether this becomes a distraction or if the player can remain completely focused on the here and now, knowing if they play better, their value will be higher."

Foran will not be able to take the field for his current employer for a number of weeks with a hamstring injury but Cherry-Evans quickly dispelled the notion that Manly were no longer going to see the best of him after announcing his move to the Titans with a starring display against the Storm last week.

Elliott said the reaction to such conjecture can affect players in one of three ways and that there will be much interest in how players in such positions react over the coming 24 rounds.

"From the outside it would seem simple that players just get on with it, but it’s important to remember that people’s livelihoods are being discussed and decided," Elliott says.

"Pressure impacts people in very different ways. Some freeze with the fear of the unknown and what’s going to happen to them and their family; others escape, choosing to find the easiest way out of a tough situation; then there are those who respond like Cherry-Evans – they fight for their team-mates, their club and families.

"It will be interesting to see how the others choose to respond this year."

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