This article was first written for and published by The Roar.
As a Parramatta Eels fan, all I want right now is for my playmaker to be given respect and privacy as he takes a break from his football commitments.
On Thursday evening it was announced by the Eels that Kieran Foran had been granted indefinite leave from the club to deal with personal issues.
Met with much shock and surprise from the rugby league community, this meant that the Eels were without their star recruit against the Bulldogs and will be without him for the foreseeable future.
Following the announcement on Thursday night, speculation only increased. Jackie O from The Kyle and Jackie O Show questioned the paternity of Kieran’s son and other media outlets suggested that Kieran had been “dropped” by the Club.
Further details emerged on Friday with it being reported that Kieran had overdosed on prescription medication after grappling with a number of personal issues, including the breakdown of his relationship and the recent hospitalisation of one of his children due to illness.
I am hopeful that with these details now public, Kieran will largely be left alone and the speculation will stop because Kieran’s welfare is my main priority.
I am not alone in wanting this. It appears that this has largely been the response of the rugby league community which shows the high regard that Kieran is held in and is a credit to the rugby league community and the respect that we have for one another.
This incident has served as yet another reminder that there are things in life that are more important than football.
As a fan, it is so easy to get caught up in the ‘winning is everything’ mantra.
Winning a Premiership is so often seen as the only thing that matters and anything which detracts from being a competitive force on the field, is often dismissed as irrelevant.
We have seen the ‘winning is everything’ approach taken countless times – where players are immediately forgiven for off field indiscretions if they are extremely talented or when people suggest that they don’t care what players do off the field, as long as they perform on it.
For me, it is about so much more than just winning because an NRL team is about so much more than what happens on the field. We see the capacity that sport has to drive and influence change.
A club like Parramatta is a focal point in the local community and through its involvement in several community initiatives and programs, the Eels consistently demonstrate that this is a power they take seriously.
As a club, the Eels are made up of many people that love it and support it. At the centre of this group is a team of young men that take the field for us every week. These young men are humans just like all of us.
Just like the rest of us, they go through difficult times and need the support of their family and friends. Unlike us however, these difficult times are often played out in the media for everyone to see.
This isn’t always easy.
What else hasn’t been easy is being an Eels fan over the last couple of years. Poor performances on the field, combined with incidents of mismanagement at a board level and several changes in coaching staff, have meant that Parramatta have often been in the headlines for the wrong reasons.
This year has brought new challenges, with allegations of salary cap breaches and a penalty from the NRL looming.
However, as a fan-base, it is now time to reflect on what is truly important and that is the welfare of one of our players.
Many are questioning what this will mean for the team on the field. The Eels currently sit in the top six and with Parramatta’s best defensive start to a season in 30 years, you cannot blame fans for being excited about the performances on the field.
But even if Kieran’s leave of absence means the Eels fall out of the top 8, I don’t mind. Ensuring he is given the space and time to ensure that he is OK off and on the field is my only concern. I want all my players to be in good health and to understand that if they have a problem, the club and its supporters are there to back and support you.
Throughout his career, Kieran is a player that I have respected and admired. He has been a player which, in all his dealings has been a positive role model for rugby league on and off the field.
You only have to look back to last year, when there was controversy surrounding Kieran and his signature on the contract linking him to Parramatta. Amongst the supporter base there was tremendous anxiety that Kieran, due to the debacle, would not sign with Parramatta.
When he signed a revised contract mid-way through last year, it demonstrated to me that Kieran was a man of his word and a man that showed nothing but sincerity and integrity despite his private contract negotiations being played out very publically.
It’s now time for us as fans, to behave sincerely and with integrity and support Kieran as he goes through a difficult time.
I don’t know what this means for the Eels going forward, but what I do know is that as a Club we will work it out, together.
Most importantly though, if I could give Kieran a message, it would be that we as a rugby league community are behind you. Take care of yourself, we’re here for you and we look forward to seeing you back, whenever you are ready.
Ladies who League xxx