Foran hits roadblock in NRL return
KIERAN Foran's Round 3 return has hit an obstacle with the Canterbury playmaker failing to take part in this week's contact sessions at Belmore.
Teammate Reimis Smith said that Foran was still on a modified program, while the rest of the team had begun contact sessions in preparation for the May 28 restart.
"Not really [did he take part in the contact session], I think he was just doing a bit of modified stuff … but he is doing what he can at the moment. It's looking positive but I don't know if he'll be there at the start of the season," Smith said.
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Last week, Coach Dean Pay said Foran's return would depend on him completing more "intensive" training in the lead up to Round 3
The 29-year-old Foran suffered a shoulder injury while playing for New Zealand against Great Britain in November last year.
Foran was set to miss at least 12 rounds before the season was suspended on March 23 due to the coronavirus.
The Kiwi international will now only miss a further one or two games depending on how soon he returns to full contact training.
Smith said Foran's timely return would be a "massive" boost to the Bulldogs after losing their first two games of the season.
"Foz's experience is next to none so to have him back firing and leading us boys around with whoever is his halves partner. He has experience in the big games, he's been training hard and doing his rehab. It's good to see that and he also looks happy," Smith said.
Foran could find himself playing alongside Wests Tigers playmaker Josh Reynolds in the halves when he finally makes his comeback. Canterbury favourite Reynolds could be Belmore bound in 2020 if the Tigers and Bulldogs can come to an agreement over the terms of his release.
Pay will also be without new recruit Joe Stimson after he suffered a season ending shoulder injury in round two against the North Queensland Cowboys.
Flyer Smith has backed young forward Renouf To'omaga as Stimson's replacement when the season restarts.
"There are so many quality backrowers … Renouf has put his hand up, Raymond Faitala-Mariner has his hand up and there are a few others pushing hard from that spot," Smith said.
"[Renouf] came back [looking] really good. He came back slim and lighter than what he left. He was excited when he came back but there was a spring in his step and there was something different about him. He wants that spot pretty hard and he has been training really hard for it."
Bulldogs fans can expect to see Smith in his new spot at left centre again, after playing on the right wing in 2019 where he finished as the club's top tryscorer with 12 tries.
Canterbury's winless start to the season hasn't dampened Smith's confidence. The 24-year old said with enough time in his new position he could be one of the elite centres in the game.
"I've had those two games at centre and there is a lot of room to grow and it's a challenge. But at the end of the day I back my ability and I believe in myself that I can be one of the best centres in the game. That's what I'm striving for," Smith said.
Josh Reynolds could be at Bulldogs as early as next week
Canterbury favourite Josh Reynolds' return to Belmore now hinges on approval from the club's board after his management met with West Tigers officials on Monday.
Reynolds' management has held talks with Tigers officials about a move to the Bulldogs.
It's believed the Tigers are willing to release Reynolds from the final two years of his deal at Concord to join Canterbury in season 2020 and are willing to pay half of his salary if a deal can be struck between the two parties.
Bulldogs coach Dean Pay is also keen to bring Reynolds, a local junior, home but it's understood the final decision rests in the hands of the board and if rubber stamped could see the playmaker back in Canterbury colours next week.
With uncertainty around what the salary cap will look like beyond season 2020 and with the playing future of playmaker Benji Marshall undecided, it was suggested the Tigers were initially reluctant to let Reynolds move on.
Reynolds was named in the halves in place of injured halfback Luke Brooks in the opening two rounds of the season and was one of their best players.
Tigers captain Moses Mbye, who also played alongside Reynolds at Belmore, said he hadn't spoken to his teammate about his playing future but would support his decision to play out the rest of his career as a Bulldog.
"From a personal point of view, I haven't spoken to Grub [Reynolds] about it. I think he's a pretty tough couple of years and he hasn't had much reward for the hard work he has put in. So whatever happens with Grub, whether it be here or anywhere else it will be good to see him playing first grade footy back where he belongs," Mbye said.
"Whatever is best for him, I'm certainly supporting, I haven't told him that but that's what I'd be telling him if he wanted advice from me."
Competition for key positions in Tigers coach Michael Maguire's spine has increased with the arrival of former Melbourne Storm hooker Harry Grant.
Grant is likely to replace five-eighth turned makeshift dummy-half Billy Walters at hooker when the season restarts from May 28. Walters played the first two games of the season at no. 9, a position Reynolds has been used in by Maguire in the past.
Halfback Luke Brooks is also set to return from injury and take his place alongside Benji Marshall in the halves.
"We've got expectations of Harry [Grant] and what he's shown us in the first week of training has been exceptional. It comes down to Madge [Maguire] to select the best team that he thinks will do the best job for him. It's a good headache for a head coach to have, a little bit of depth, it's something we haven't had for the last couple of seasons," Mbye said.