Resilient and brilliant five-eighth Kieran Foran appeared certain to become one of New Zealand’s longest-serving internationals, but a horror run of injuries has severely limited his availability since starring in a string of momentous victories in the mid-2010s.
Born in Auckland and first pulling on the boots for Ellerslie Eagles, Foran moved to Sydney with his family while still at primary school. His ability while coming through the North Sydney junior grades was recognised with his selection in the 2007 Australian Schoolboys side while attending Marist College North Shore.
Foran was snapped up by Manly, playing 35 games for the club’s NYC side in 2008-09 and making an instant impact at NRL level when he was blooded as an 18-year-old during the second half of the latter season. He scored six tries in nine first-grade outings to snare a place in the Kiwis’ Four Nations touring squad.
Capping a meteoric rise, Foran made his Test debut at centre in a 20-12 loss to England at Huddersfield – less than four months after his 19th birthday. That was his only appearance at the tournament but he was picked at halfback inside captain Benji Marshall for the 2010 Anzac Test.
Injury ruled Foran out of New Zealand’s subsequent Four Nations triumph. He wore the No.7 jersey in all five of the Kiwis’ Test assignments in 2011, however, and starred in the Sea Eagles’ premiership triumph. An ill-timed injury prevented him from playing in the 2012 Anzac Test in Auckland but he returned for the post-season loss to Australia in Townsville.
Solidifying his standing as one of the world’s best players in 2013, Foran was integral to Manly’s drive to another grand final – a loss to Sydney Roosters – and was ever-present at five-eighth for New Zealand. He captained the Kiwis in their Anzac Test loss to the Kangaroos in Canberra and featured in all six matches at the Rugby League World Cup for the runners-up.
Foran’s playmaking class was complemented by a fierce competitive streak and inspirational toughness in defence. The 2014 season would be one of his most memorable, finishing equal-seventh in the Dally M Medal count and playing superbly as Shaun Johnson’s halves foil throughout the Kiwis’ triumphant Four Nations campaign. Foran and Johnson teamed up again to lead New Zealand to a drought-breaking Anzac Test victory in Brisbane in 2015, but both linchpins were ruled out of the end-of-year tour to England with injury.
The 25-year-old joined Parramatta in 2016 and was immediately installed as captain. But a season-ending shoulder injury and a string of widely-publicised personal issues meant he played just nine games for the Eels before returning to Auckland to take up a one-year contract with the Warriors. Injuries also hampered his sole 2017 season at the Warriors, but he soldiered on valiantly and made his first international appearance in two years as the Kiwis went down to the Kangaroos in the Canberra-hosted Anzac Test. He pulled out of RLWC contention to focus on recovering from multiple ailments.
Linking with Canterbury, Foran’s 2018 campaign was cut short in June by a toe injury. Ankle and hamstring problems restricted his appearances again in 2019 but he finished the NRL season in top-shelf form for the Bulldogs to earn a Kiwis recall at the end of the year. Foran was chosen to replace Johnson in the halves for the series opener against Great Britain at Eden Park – his first Test outing on New Zealand soil in five years – to extend his international tenure to a decade. But agonisingly he suffered a serious shoulder injury in the early stages of the 12-8 win.
Foran made his 200th NRL appearance in a 2020 campaign for the Bulldogs bookended by further injury absences, while he signed a deal to return to the Sea Eagles in 2021 – a move that sparked a wonderful career revival. The 31-year-old played 25 games (his most in a season since 2013) in a team that surged to a top-four finish and reached the preliminary final stage, producing 11 try-assists and thriving in the halves alongside 2011-15 teammate Daly Cherry-Evans.
Foran was named in the Kiwis’ wider squad for the postponed World Cup at the end of 2021.