Sea Eagles bracing for Foran invasion
Leaving the club you played your entire career for is never easy, but it pales in comparison to the first time you have to return to your old stomping ground in enemy colours.
That's the situation facing Kieran Foran, who after 147 games with the Sea Eagles, is set to run out as a visitor at Brookvale Oval when the Eels take on their bitter rivals on Thursday night.
So accustomed to coming out to the tune of Eagle Rock, Foran will instead have to watch as his former teammates charge onto Brookvale Oval in front of what should be a raucous Manly home crowd.
The 2011 premiership-winner has been hampered by a hamstring injury in the early rounds of 2016, but if his performance against the Raiders on Saturday afternoon is anything to go by, appears to be nearing full fitness.
Foran showed off his footwork of old to score his first try in blue and gold, and Sea Eagles prop forward Josh Starling is expecting that same level of class on Thursday night.
"'Foz' is going to have a big one like he always does," Starling said.
"He always gives 200 per cent every time he plays and that's why everyone loves to play with him and that's why I loved playing with him.
"He's going to be ready to. He loves Brookie and he loves playing there and he's a tough competitor."
Fellow Sea Eagles hard-man Darcy Lussick is fully aware of what awaits Foran after moving to the Eels in 2013 following several seasons on the northern beaches.
His first game at Brookvale Oval as a visitor finished 50-10, but Lussick isn’t predicting anything similar this time around for Foran.
"He'll be ready for a big game. His game on the weekend was really good. He likes playing at Brookie and he's probably had this pencilled in for a while. We know what to expect from him and we're looking forward to it," Lussick said.
"You always look forward to playing your old club. When I was at Parramatta I looked forward to playing Manly and now I'm looking forward to playing them on Thursday."
One man who knows Foran's game better than most is Manly winger Jorge Taufua, who scored the bulk of his 53 NRL tries playing outside the former Sea Eagles five-eighth.
Taufua and centre partner Steve Matai are excited to take on the man who orchestrated their left-edge attack for so many years.
"'Fozza' is such a great player. He's always playing hard and fast, so we've got to be ready for anything he throws at us," Taufua said.
"He's a very influential player on their team and I saw he scored a great try on the weekend. It'll be good to come up against him – especially me and 'Stevie' [Matai] who played with him for so long – so I can't wait for the challenge.
"I think he still lives somewhere around here. I'm yet to catch up with him but I'm sure we'll catch up after the game. I'm sure he's looking forward to it just as much as we are."
Foran isn’t the only ex-Sea Eagle to return to Brookvale, with Clint Gutherson also set to take on his former club on Thursday night.
The Eels winger will line up opposite Taufua, and it’s a challenge the Tongan international can't wait for.
"I saw him yesterday actually so it should be good coming up against 'Gutho' who's a Manly junior," he said.
"It's kind of like we've switched – he was born and raised out here and I was raised out in the west."
Taufua says he bumped into his former teammate at a Japanese eatery earlier in the week, revealing – albeit jokingly – that he had plotted to spike his food.
"He was just picking up some sushi. I told the people at the back to chuck something in there so he couldn't play on Thursday. Hopefully he doesn't go too well."