Kieran Foran is back but will he be enough to transform the Warriors from basket cases to contenders?
The former New Zealand Test playmaker will make his long-awaited return to the NRL with the Warriors in Sunday’s clash with St George Illawarra.
The Warriors on Saturday confirmed he would make his club debut at Kogarah and will start in the halves alongside Shaun Johnson after Ata Hingano was dropped to NSW Cup.
It’s been a long road back for Foran after undergoing shoulder surgery, walking out less than a year into his contract with Parramatta, fighting a protracted battle with personal demons before receiving clearance from the NRL to return to the game through the Warriors.
He has not played since May last year and could have returned last week but was held back by coach Stephen Kearney because of his shoulder.
Foran will immediately be placed under pressure to deliver the club a top-four finish after their sustained under-achievement and a five-year absence from the finals.
Over the past eight seasons, they have made the top eight just twice, going through five head coaches in that time.
Now with an all-Kiwi Test spine of Foran, Johnson, Issac Luke and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, there are many who will consider anything less than a top-four finish a disappointment.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Foran said.
“The last couple of weeks I’ve been doing more and more contact on my shoulder, things have been progressing well there.
“I’m just looking forward to taking the field and getting back out there.”
While Foran will have the limelight focused on him at Kogarah on Sunday, it’s the Warriors forwards who shape as key.
The Dragons’ big men, notably the in-form Jack de Belin and Canberra discard Paul Vaughan, have been a driving force behind their 2-1 start.
The Warriors lead the competition for tackle busts (36.7 per game) and have made the fourth most metres (1451m per game) behind North Queensland, Brisbane and Melbourne.
“The Warriors are a talented football team,” coach Paul McGregor said.
“They have an international spine. But every battle is won up front first. It’ll be interesting and it’ll be physical. We’re looking to do it on what we did well against Cronulla.”
STATS THAT MATTER
* The Dragons have won the past three, and 10 of the past 13 matches at Kogarah. They have scored 20 points or more in eight of these 10 wins.
* Simon Mannering will become the most capped Warrior of all-time, playing in his 262nd match for the club and overtaking Stacey Jones.
* The Warriors have made the least linebreaks (3) and tackle busts (15.3) per game, while ranked second last for points scored (16 per game) and offloads (5.7).
Source: Fox Sports Stats