Foran shaping to start for Warriors
The ongoing saga surrounding Kieran Foran's return to the playing field looks like it's over, with the star Warriors recruit getting through a full contact session on Wednesday and his coach all but confirming he will play in Round 4.
After almost 10 months on the sideline due to shoulder surgery which ended his 2016 campaign, and off-field troubles which saw him serve an NRL-sanctioned suspension, Foran has been named on an extended bench for the Warriors' clash with the Dragons at the UOW Jubilee Oval on Sunday.
Foran engaged in full contact mid-week, competing in a left edge versus right edge drill before later working alongside halfback Shaun Johnson in an opposed session.
Crucially, he didn't appear to be lacking any confidence in his troublesome left shoulder, at one point delivering a stinging low tackle on centre David Fusitu'a.
After training Foran was whisked away for a private discussion with coach Stephen Kearney and Johnson, suggesting he is likely to assume a place in the halves.
"He's a good chance, he has [still] got to pass a few tests," Kearney said.
"I can't give you a definite, we need to see how he pulls up today and obviously tomorrow.
"He has to do a fair bit of contact work and that's been a progression for him over the course of the last two weeks, so we just need to ramp that up over the next couple of days.
"We set the protocol out for him when we got a good idea about when he was likely to be back, and he is working through that."
The 20-Test Kiwi international's club debut in the halves would be a timely one for the Warriors, given their attack has struggled over the past fortnight and clocked up only 22 points in their last 160 minutes of football.
Meanwhile, despite Foran not playing at all since Round 12 of the 2016 NRL Telstra Premiership season, Kearney said he had no concerns over his fitness levels or ability to compete for 80 minutes
"I think he will be fine, I don't think you can replicate exactly a game [in terms of fitness], but he is a pretty intelligent footballer and the smarter footballers know the efficient way to get around the park," Kearney said.
"If he was a front-rower I would be a little bit more worried, in the sense that they do probably a bit more physical work, but he has looked really good over the last few weeks in terms of training and what we have put in front of him.
"His leadership and direction [is what he would bring], you can hear him, he was pretty vocal out there today.
"I think everyone knows when Kieran is playing his best footy you want him in your team, so that is the asset that he brings."
There was less positive news for another of the Warriors' veteran Kiwi internationals this week though, with Kearney confirming winger Manu Vatuvei may require surgery after leaving the field in last Friday's 24-12 loss to the Canterbury Bulldogs with a knee issue.
"Manu won't be available this week, he went in and had a scan on Monday so we are just awaiting the results on that," Kearney said.
"He may need a little bit of surgery just to clean out a couple of little bits in there."