Eels ready to roll out Foran welcome mat
Parramatta players are readying for the first return of departed playmaker Kieran Foran, who will play in front of Eels fans for the first time when his Warriors travel to ANZ Stadium on Friday night.
While the Kiwi pivot will no doubt cop a razzing from elements of the blue and gold crowd, he remains on good terms with his former teammates. However after orchestrating a 22-10 win against his former club at Mt Smart Stadium in Round 6, Eels players are hoping things will be different when he faces the music against his old home crowd.
"He'll be sweet; I hope he's sweet, Parra fans are brutal!" laughed Eels hooker Kaysa Pritchard.
"I love 'Fozzy' as a person, I reckon he's a good bloke. Last time we played them he ripped us apart. I don't think we were ready for him last time."
Part of the reason the Eels may have been underprepared to face Foran in Round 6 is due to his delayed start to the year.
After being forced to sit out the opening three rounds following on from his personal circumstances that saw him depart from the Eels mid-year last season, a hamstring complaint further delayed his return until Round 5.
"I don't think we knew if he was going to play or not last time but he's playing this week and we've got a job to do on him. Him playing is just going to make our job a bit harder," Pritchard added.
One of the key match-ups to decide Friday's contest will be the respective performances of Parramatta's former star halfback recruit against its latest big-name signing in Mitch Moses, who improved out of sight from his first game in blue and gold to his second when he led the way in a 22-16 win over Souths last week.
Moses said Foran hadn't been a focus of the Eels' preparation but was looking forward to facing off against one of the sport's best playmakers.
"It hasn't been spoken about at all but he's probably one of the best halves in the game, coming up against his old club he'll want to get a good game under his belt," Moses said.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge against him. You always want to [play against] the best in the game and challenge yourself and always put yourself up against them so I'm definitely looking forward to that."
Pritchard will be another key man for the Eels on Friday; his partnership with former Eels under-16s teammate Moses has progressed rapidly in two games while Pritchard's own form has built steadily in what is his first season of consistent big-minute starting games.
"I'm feeling a lot better, I'm starting to understand the speed of the game," he said of his own form.
"It's more getting used to the speed of the game, I'm understanding it better now. I still haven't got it totally but I will and I can still keep up playing good footy and doing my job."
Injured Eels No.9 Isaac De Gois has been a big help to Pritchard this year despite his own disappointment at not being able to play since being concussed in a pre-season trial game.
"I love 'Goisy', I talk to him nearly every day, every time I see him," Pritchard said.
"He's giving me good tips on what to do and how to do it and things I'm doing [badly] too, he'll tell me straight and that's what I love about Goisy. I hope to see him back soon."