There's no doubt the news Parramatta captain Kieran Foran would be taking some leave away from football to deal with personal issues came as a shock to his tight-knit group of teammates but if anything, the bond they shared was personified by the resilience and toughness the players showed to overcome an awful injury toll to beat Canterbury on Friday night.
With Foran's absence causing a reshuffle, then Tepai Moeroa (shin) withdrawing pre-game and Tim Mannah (shoulder) and Michael Gordon (quad) going down in the first half, the team had every excuse to lie down – and simply refused.
Eels winger Clint Gutherson – a former Manly teammate of Foran before accompanying the Kiwi Test star on his move west for 2016 – said the news came as a shock but the team was determined to do him proud until he returned.
"Everyone loves 'Foz', you can't dislike him, he's a big part of anything he's in. He just has a demeanour about him to be the best and he gets the best out of everyone," Gutherson told NRL.com after the 20-12 win.
"When you see him struggling a bit you really want to put in and as we showed tonight this was a big win for us as a team and a club and for him. It shows how tight we really are and it's a really big win for us moving forward. Hopefully he can get better first then come back and he'll fit straight back in – it's more a focus on him getting healthy."
Gutherson conceded it had been an emotional time, and he had shared some emotional chats with his close mate Foran over recent weeks as pressure began to build on him.
"We've been chatting over a couple of weeks and it's sort of just taken its toll on him. I've spoken to him, he'll get through. He's a strong bloke. We're pretty close so it is emotional to see him like this. He's a tough person, he's got a good family and good tight friends, he'll be right, he'll come out the other end of this and be better for it."
I love you fozzy, that win was for him! How good are the boys #parra— Clinton Gutherson (@ClintGutherson) April 29, 2016
Coach Brad Arthur said the players wanted to win for Foran but also proved they wanted to win for each other and for their fans.
"They wanted to play for Kieran but they wanted to play for themselves too, they wanted to play for their fans. They work hard during the week – they want to win," Arthur said.
"It's not ideal but the boys have been very good at knowing when they need to switch on and put on a performance but there's a lot of accountability to each other. Yeah it was a performance there for Kieran but also there's a real sense of belief among each other that they can't let anyone down in the team.
"It's tough but I know that he's OK and he's in good hands and he'll pull through this."
Five-eighth Corey Norman shifted to halfback in Foran's absence and put in a colossal man-of-the-match performance and said the effort from players one through 17 was a continuation of what they had showed over the previous eight weeks as well.
"No one wants to see your teammate like that and hopefully he gets better soon. Obviously we wanted to win for him and win for the club and we tried to take the emotion out of it early because you can only play on emotion for so long," Norman said.
"I thought we did that well and that's how we won the game – we stuck to what we've been doing for the last nine weeks and kept turning up for each other and came away with a good win."
Norman said the stoic Foran had been doing a good job of putting on a brave face in front of teammates.
"He held it well in front of us, it was a bit of a shock, we got told by the club before it came out and we were a bit shocked but he was turning up for us and doing a job for us really well and it was good that he did that but obviously his health is first priority."