KIERAN Foran has emerged as one of the Warriors’ major targets for the 2016 season.
The Kiwis five eighth, who featured in the 14-12 win over Samoa on Saturday, is off contract with Manly at the end of next year.
The 24-year-old combined superbly with Shaun Johnson in last week’s historic win over the Kangaroos, giving a taste of what the duo could produce if they were united at Mt Smart Stadium.
“He’s a player every club would like to have,” Warriors general manager football Dean Bell said.
“He will be hot property on the market and Manly will also be keen to keep him. But players like him don’t come on the market very often and we would be daft not to have a look at him.
“We will be talking to a number of players but he would be near the top of our list.”
Foran, who grew up in Auckland and played for the Ellerslie Eagles as a junior, made his NRL debut in 2009 and has since racked up 128 NRL games (30 tries).
He has developed into one of the most consistent halves in the competition, with a large bag of tricks on attack, as well as being a formidable defender.
He will be sought after. Before he signed his current Sea Eagles contract, Foran was chased by several teams, including the Storm and Bulldogs.
His next deal is expected to move him into the top echelon of NRL earners, occupied by the likes of Billy Slater, Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith and Greg Inglis.
Foran has previously appealed as the kind of player who would want to be a one-club man, but the internal strife that has plagued Manly this year may have been damaging.
Foran has seen close friends such as Glenn Stewart and Anthony Watmough depart and the future of others such as Brett Stewart and Steve Matai are up in the air.
“I’m a bit all over the joint in terms of my future,” Foran said after Manly’s 18-17 loss to the Bulldogs in the preliminary final.
“One day I get up and I think it’d be brilliant to stay here for the rest of my career, the next day I get up and think, ‘Aw ****, maybe I should have a change’. I’ve got some tough times ahead of me to think about what I want to do.”
Foran’s signature wouldn’t come cheaply but, for once, the Warriors have the financial muscle to match other clubs.
The departure of Feleti Mateo has freed up a considerable amount of cash.
Mateo was among the top-five earners at Mt Smart, while Kevin Locke’s exit also generated some space under the salary cap.
“I don’t like all this talk about us being cashed up,” Bell said.
“That’s not the case and there are a lot of other factors that come into it ... but it’s fair to say we are well-positioned in the market.”
Foran doesn’t seem the type totally motivated by money. Coming into the prime of his career, he will need to be assured his next contract will be with a club who can succeed — something the Warriors, for all their potential, have yet to prove.
On top of that, he retains close friendships at Brookvale — which were enough to turn down strong overtures from former mentor Des Hasler back in 2012 — and has a young family.
But the challenge of trying to bring an NRL title to New Zealand for the first time, especially as a proud Kiwi, could be appealing.