At approximately 5.15pm on Friday, July 29, 2016, the relationship between the Parramatta Eels and Kieran Foran officially ended.
Following a series of breach notices and weeks of speculation about his state of mind and his commitment to football, Foran was officially released from his contractual commitments at the club, and made a decision to temporarily walk away from rugby league.
My first thought was about Foran and his well-being, and I know I was not alone. Even among the staunchest of Parramatta supporters, I have found that the rugby league community has a tremendous ability to rally around its own when they have fallen on difficult circumstances, and with Foran’s issues well documented this year, it was clear he had been struggling and needed some time away.
The media and the general public seemed to understand this and left him alone.
As a Parramatta fan, I felt no ill will – although I did question whether our number 7 jersey really is cursed. While winning is important, it is certainly not as important as the welfare of our players, no matter which club they play for. As a game, the NRL and clubs have an obligation to ensure that players are not only physically fit, but also mentally healthy.
Parra and Foran dealt with the situation amicably and what was most important was negotiating a commercial outcome while ensuring that Foran was looked after. If Foran felt that what was best for him was to be released from his contractual commitments and have some time away from the game, then the Eels’ approach seemed to be deep disappointment that it did not work out, but then ‘so be it and of course, good luck’.
I thought that would be the end of any discussion about Foran for a couple of months, but I was very quickly proven wrong.
Merely days after the terms of his release were announced, there were whispers that Foran was heading to the Canterbury Bulldogs to reunite with former coach Des Hasler as early as the end of the year. There were references to the role of mentor that Des has played for Foran over a number of years, and their success together at the Sea Eagles.
Then, after the whispers about a potential Bulldogs move quietened down, Foran was linked to the New Zealand Warriors and his long-time friend, Warriors chief executive Jim Doyle.
Initially, these rumours made me uncomfortable, but now that feeling has changed to anger.
If Foran’s issues were significant enough to see him walk away from a multi-million dollar contract with Parramatta, then how can he be ready to join a new club in 2017 – particularly since most teams begin their pre-season training in November? (Click to Tweet)
After just four months, how Foran will have sorted through the litany of off-field issues he is facing is something I am struggling to get my head around.
I do not pretend to know Foran or understand his headspace, but this seems extremely rushed in circumstances where there does not need to be any rush at all.
Should Foran try to return as early as 2017, I am confident that the NRL will ensure that all the off-field issues (which led to a number of breach notices at Parramatta) have been dealt with, that Foran is made to demonstrate how he has dealt with these issues, and that the Integrity Unit is satisfied that Foran in the right headspace to return to the game.
This might seem too hard arse, but the last thing I want is for Foran to return in 2017 and then find himself in a similar situation to this year, where his personal life and life on the field collided so spectacularly and absolutely to his detriment. Some things are more important than winning, and at no point should it come at the expense of our athletes’ health.
This has nothing to do with the Parramatta Eels, and everything to do with ensuring that Foran is only allowed to return to the game when the relevant issues have been dealt with.
I truly hope that we see Kieran Foran back in our game. On countless occasions he has proven that he is an astute playmaker, a valuable leader and a player with extraordinary talent.
But unless he sorts himself out off the field, it is unlikely we will see this extraordinary talent manifest itself again.
It’s time for Keiran to take a time out and for those whispers to disappear. If that happens, I would hope that by the time pre-season for 2018 rolls around, he will be ready to join a new club and resume his playing career exactly where he left off.
This is @mary__kaye from @ladieswholeague