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Is Kieran Foran the most Manly player of all time?

Over the course of a career, a player can turn out for many different clubs. But often there’s only one jersey that looks right on them. Only one set of colours spring to mind when you imagine them. For example Thurston is a Cowboy, and it’s unsettling to see early photos of him in a Bulldogs jumper. Matty Johns in a Cronulla jumper, that also looked weird.

But I don’t think I ever felt this more strongly than when I first saw Kieren Foran in Paramatta colours. Foran is a Manly player, it’s as simple as that.

When you think about what you need to be an icon at Brookvale, Foran ticks all the boxes … he comes from the most silvertailed of backgrounds, he was born in NZ and he was a North Sydney Bears junior.

Foran comes from an era when Manly players were particularly easy to dislike. Read through the list of their 2011 premiership team and you’ll find yourself saying “no thank you” or “yes I remember that grub” after nearly all of them.

But not Foran. He was hard but fair, the sort of no fuss worker you could never imagine taking a cheap shot, or a dive, or climbing to the top of a pyramid. There was something chiseled and craggy about his face. He always had the air of an old man with a young player’s body. He seems to have carried injuries his entire career. I imagine him as a boy playing backyard football, constantly managing shoulder, knee and ankle problems, but never missing a game or complaining.

Back in 2012, Crusher Cleal recognised something in young Foran, and described him as a “nice player”. This was a full decade before niceness became the Manly DNA.

Foran is about to enter the fourth and final phase of his NRL playing career.

He began with six happy and highly successful seasons at Manly under the coaching of Des Hasler and Geoff Toovey. The universe was in balance.

Then followed seasons near the bottom of the table at Eels, Warriors and Bulldogs.

Returning to Manly last year, no surprise that Foran and Manly refound their mojo.

Which makes next year’s move to the Gold Coast all the more puzzling. History suggests it will lead to a decline for all parties involved, Foran, Manly and the Titans.

When I learned Foran was retiring to, sorry, moving to the Gold Coast, I resolved to enjoy each of his final few forays in a Manly jersey.

And now suddenly the Manly jersey is in the news. Their decision to wear rainbow colours surprised some, but it was no shock that when they wanted a leader to step forward and model the strip, they naturally turned to Foran, the most Manly player ever.

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