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Foran impasse remains despite near-fitness

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 16/01/2017 Angelo Risso
Image of Kieran Foran © Mark Metcalfe / Getty Images Image of Kieran Foran

Warriors boss Stephen Kearney says star recruit Kieran Foran is nearing full fitness despite continuing to wait on clearance from the NRL.

Foran, 26, signed a one-year deal with the club in September but is yet to receive the green light to play after suffering a myriad of problems in 2016.

The Kiwi five-eighth was released from his lucrative Parramatta Eels deal in July after suffering from mental illness and checking into a rehabilitation clinic.

A serious shoulder injury had also kept him off the park in an annus horribilis for the Eels, who were fined and docked 12 points for major salary cap breaches.

The NRL are thought to want assurances on Foran's mental health and relationship with Sydney-based punter Eddie Hayson before ratifying any Warriors contract.

Club chief and former NRL operating officer Jim Doyle initially expected to bridge the NRL impasse by Christmas, but has since revised his expectations to January.

He remains in contact with the governing body on the matter, with Sydney media reporting Foran will not be eligible for the side's first-round match against Newcastle in March.

Kearney told reporters that irrespective of any administrative hurdles, Foran was looking in good nick physically and almost past his shoulder problems.

The Auckland-born playmaker could be seen at pre-season training on Monday doing some sprints and drills with Warriors teammates, but was still mostly training solo.

"He goes in to see a specialist this afternoon so that's another step forward for him," Kearney said.

"I've seen a real improvement from him and what he can do with us over the past month or so, and he's come back after Christmas in fantastic shape."

Kearney played a straight bat to suggestions the saga had affected his side's pre-season preparations, with the Auckland Nines tournament just a fortnight away.

Trials against Melbourne and Gold Coast will follow in mid-February, before the season kicks off in earnest on March 5 at Mt Smart Stadium.

Young gun Ata Hingano will assume the No.6 jumper if Foran's clearance doesn't come through, while livewire Tuimoala Lolohea will play 2017 on the wing.

"To be honest I haven't spent a great deal of energy on it because my focus is on 35 blokes here who I've got to look after," Kearney said.

"It's not my decision, it's the NRL's, and it's a process which Jim is working through."

Elsewhere, the new Warriors boss said he was pleased with his side's pre-season progress despite the loss of experienced prop Ben Matulino to a left knee injury.

The 28-year-old will miss the start of the NRL season after undergoing surgery last week, having already had surgery on his right knee in September.

Albert Vete, Sam Lisone, Charlie Gubb and James Gavet are all in line to take the Kiwi international's place in the matchday squad.

On the flipside, star fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is likely to return from last year's ACL tear in the Nines, having impressed on the training paddock.

"That's what everyone expects of Roger, he epitomises professionalism and if there's a box to tick, he's ticking it plus more," Kearney said.

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