Warriors coach Stephen Kearney warns Kieran Foran will face some challenges in the coming months, after the NRL yesterday approved his long-awaited playing return.
Foran will be available to play in the round three clash against the Canterbury Bulldogs in Dunedin on March 17, with the NRL finally registering his one-year contract with the Warriors.
Both club and player are pleased with the outcome, following four months of negotiations with the game's governing body around Foran's rehabilitation from various personal and mental issues, but Kearney is mindful that it will not be an easy transition for the 26-year-old.
Kearney is more pleased to see the former Manly and Parramatta playmaker back in a healthy state of mind after a difficult past year and believes his playing comeback is secondary to his long-term well-being.
"I'm really happy for Kieran," said Kearney. "I know he's worked really hard over the last two or three months to get himself in that position.
"Eight months ago, he was a million miles away from playing, so it's about Kieran being in a position where he's able to play.
"That's the important part."
Having received the green light to return to the field, Kearney says Foran's playing return will only help with his ongoing recovery.
But it won't all be smooth sailing, he warns, as Foran adjusts to his new team and looks to re-establish himself within the all-Kiwis test spine of hooker Issac Luke, halfback Shaun Johnson, and fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
"I have no doubt that [playing] will be a big part of the next part of his recovery," he said.
"I remember meeting with him last July-August and he was a million miles away from even thinking about playing.
"It hasn't been an easy journey and it won't be an easy journey moving forward. That will be a process for him every day, to keep working on getting better, but no doubt this helps."
Veteran Warriors prop Jacob Lillyman has recognised positive changes in Foran's demeanour and personality since he first arrived at Mt Smart last October and says he is determined to deliver for his new side.
"Definitely he's come a long way," said Lillyman.
"It's been a real battle for him but he's climbed out the other side and he's got a smile on his face and is good for a laugh.
"Speaking to him, he's really looking forward to getting out there. He's really happy to be a part of the Warriors and really wants to make a strong contribution.
"He's going to bring an awful lot to the side. He's got a little bit of work to do in getting the shoulder right but now that he's got that date in mind he can really rip in."
Kearney is confident Foran will handle the weight of expectation on him to transform the Warriors from top-eight pretenders to title contenders and says he will have plenty of on-field support.
Just as the club has shielded Foran from local media while he settles in to Auckland life, his new teammates will ensure he's not left alone to carry the can whether they win or lose each week.
"The thing is he's not there by himself," he said. "The team have been really conscious that we protect him and rally around him and help him through a challenging process and it's going to be no different out on the field.
"I expect Kieran to do his job as I do everyone else in the team. I'm sure if we're doing that that's going to help Kieran."
The Warriors play their final pre-season trial against the Gold Coast Titans in Palmerston North on Sunday, before opening their NRL season against Newcastle at Mt Smart Stadium on March 5.