NRL: Bulldogs bank on Kieran Foran bouncing back

Foran has battled with injury the past two seasons.
Foran has battled with injury the past two seasons. Photo credit: Getty

Canterbury coach Dean Pay scoffs at suggestions injury-plagued NRL playmaker Kieran Foran is well past his best.

And he says there's no reason why the former NRL premiership winner's best years aren't in front of him.

After three years in which the 28-year-old has been restricted to just 38 games, Foran is undoubtedly the key man in the Bulldogs' rebuild this season.

The Bulldogs' $AU800,000-a-season ($NZ830,000) marquee man has spent the past several years - including his maiden season at Belmore in 2018 - plagued by back, hamstring and shoulder problems.

But he has shown glimpses of his best in the Bulldogs' pre-season trials.

In a way, Foran is a victim of his own bravery.

For years he has taken the ball to the line, with no thought of self- preservation, and been smashed for his efforts.

"He's looking forward to it. He's fit and strong and happy off the field," Pay told AAP.

"He's looking forward to getting out there and playing some footy again.

"You can't control injuries. People talk to him getting back to his best but who's to say his best isn't in front of him?

"He's done everything we've asked him to, he enjoys coming to training, he's been terrific for our younger boys, his positivity in the joint, he's always got a smile on his face.

"He's a enjoying that he's doing."

Foran was tipped to partner Lachlan Lewis, who enjoyed a breakout back-end of the 2018 season, in the halves this year.

However, Jack Cogger has also been given time in the No.6 during the trials after his recruitment from Newcastle.

Dylan Napa is the Dogs' only name signing heading into 2019, however, he comes as a like-for-like replacement for the departed David Klemmer, who joined the Knights.

After a well-publicised salary cap squeeze, which forced out the likes of Aaron Woods, Moses Mbye, Josh and Brett Morris, the Bulldogs will more than any other club lean on youth this year.

Fullback Nick Meaney moved from the Knights to Belmore in search of opportunity and looks set to wear the No.1.

"Nick has come in an worked extremely hard in the gym, he's put some weight on," Pay said.

"He's falling into how we want him to play. He's working hard and he's communicating, which is a big part of playing fullback."

Morgan Harper has been highly-touted and is being tipped to take Josh Morris's centre spot and debut in round one.

They will rely on the youthful exuberance they exhibited in the final month-and- a-half of last season in which Canterbury won four of their last six.

Pay has heard the widespread predictions that they're the favourites for the wooden spoon but is attempting to turn their deficiencies into a strength.

He emphasised they will be an opportunity club this year and laid down the gauntlet to every player in his roster, with a top 17 spot the carrot.

"You can't compensate for losing quality players like the Morrises," Pay said.

"The opportunity is there for the younger boys to come up and grab a spot.

"That's just been so encouraging for us during the pre-season because it's created a whole lot of competition for spots. That's only been healthy for us.

"There's spots there available. We've got our top 30 and whoever is playing their best footy will get that spot and keep it."

AAP

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