A decade after savouring premiership glory with Manly as a couple of fresh-faced youngsters, Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans will share another significant moment at AAMI Park on Thursday when the resilient and respected ‘Foz’ plays his 250th NRL game.
Foran was 21 and Cherry-Evans 22 when they teamed up in the halves to take the Sea Eagles to grand final glory in 2011, the start of a five-year partnership that was split when the Kiwi five-eighth headed to the Eels in 2016.
Stints at the Warriors (2017) and Bulldogs (2018-20) followed before Foran found his way ‘home’ to Brookvale last season to reunite with Cherry-Evans, who has gone on to become Sea Eagles royalty with 272 games in maroon and white.
Since that emotional night at ANZ Stadium in 2011, Foran has played 191 games, his career derailed by serious shoulder, hamstring, back and ankle injuries, while DCE has added 245 games to his tally.
Foran freely admits there were times he feared he’d never make it anywhere near 250 games, but his love for the game and the contest kept him going.
“I’ve had plenty of tough spots and a number of times I wondered whether I’d be able to keep playing so it’s always nice to pick yourself up and be able to keep going and that is something I’ve prided myself on,” Foran said.
“I’m very fortunate that I’m able to play this great game every single week and I want to play for as long as I can.
“The mental and physical challenges are both as tough as one another and at times go hand in hand. I’m just glad I have been able to learn along the way and build plenty of resilience.
“Deep down I love rugby league. I enjoy the competitive side and I enjoy trying to push my body for as hard as I can and for as long as I can and at the end of the day if you’ve got that will then you’re able to keep going.”
Given his injury history and the fact he was closing in on his 31st birthday, many questioned the wisdom of Manly taking a punt on Foran in 2021.
When the dust had settled on the Sea Eagles’ season, the reward had far outweighed the risk, a fully fit Foran producing 11 try assists and 18 line break assists in 25 matches – the first time since 2014 he had played more than 20 games in a season.
“I never thought I would come back to Manly after my first stint here and then being able to come back and get the opportunity to play here for the last couple of years has been a dream come true,” Foran said.
“It’s pretty cool to be able to play my 250th in these colours – it means a lot to me.”
In a week where the season-ending injury to superstar fullback Tom Trbojevic has dominated the headlines and his own headspace, Cherry-Evans was happy to take time out to pay tribute to milestone man Foran.
“As a mate, and thinking about the journey he has been on, I can’t wait to be out there and support him this week and hopefully get a win,” Cherry-Evans said.
“As a team-mate you want to make sure you go out and make these milestones a special night for them.
“It’s a night Kieran and his family will never forget and we do have that added motivation to go out there and play better for someone who is loved at this club.
“We are really clear on what’s coming down there [in Melbourne] this week.
“Craig Bellamy will have his team bouncing off walls ready to get into us but as much as we have acknowledged where their season is at and what they’ll be like I feel like we’ll be a little bit more desperate and emotionally we’ve got a bit more to play on this weekend – one of our most loved team-mates playing his 250th.”
Apart from the motivation to rip in for Foran, there’s another much loved Manly man who’ll have his team-mates walking taller on Thursday night and that’s Jorge Taufua.
The 30-year-old winger is set to play his first NRL game since suffering a ruptured Achilles in round 17 of the 2020 season and Cherry-Evans said the return of the renowned hitman will lift spirits after a tough week.
“Jorge’s return is something the boys will really get around. He’s had a hell of a story himself to come back from injury after injury,” Cherry-Evans said.
“He’s my longest team-mate and we’ve built up a great relationship.
“Just the way he goes about his business – he never asks for help, never wants anyone’s handouts or freebies, he’s just someone who consistently works hard and wants to help the team out where he can.
“To do an Achilles at that age is tough but he has worked so hard and done a fantastic job to get his body right.”
As if Manly needed any added motivation to try and take down old foe Melbourne, they have it in spades with Foran and Taufua - two resilient and respected warriors who don't the meaning of the word quit.