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Good mates now NRL grand final foes

From best of mates to best of enemies, Manly five-eighth Kieran Foran might only have himself to blame if Mitchell Pearce's mid-season revival delivers the Sydney Roosters the NRL premiership.
Good mates now NRL grand final foes
by AAP

By Steve Jancetic

SYDNEY, Sept 30 AAP - From best of mates to best of enemies, Manly five-eighth Kieran Foran might only have himself to blame if Mitchell Pearce's mid-season revival delivers the Sydney Roosters the NRL premiership.

Childhood buddies who would spend every afternoon kicking the footy around along with Kieran's older brother Liam, Foran and Pearce will take the fantasy played out countless times on the front lawn onto the biggest stage of all.

The pair shape as vital cogs for their respective sides, but it is the emergence of Pearce from a State of Origin campaign many thought would break him that has really caught the eye.

Pearce credits the guidance of Roosters coach Trent Robinson for helping him overcome the disappointment of yet another failed Origin campaign, but Foran too - as he is before and after every game - played his role.

"I knew that he would have had a lot of people in his ear telling him about stuff and trying to give him tips, so I didn't want to overload him," Foran said of his post-Origin words of wisdom.

"I definitely threw my support behind him and told him you can't blame the game on one man.

"I don't think there's been enough said about how he's bounced back from what he copped.

"Most players would have finished the season weak and just gone into their shell.

"For him to come out and produce the back half of the year like he's done shows the quality of player we're about to see."

Critics claim the Origin heartache may have been the making of Pearce, his leadership and decision-making rising to a new level over the closing stages of the season.

While it may have been a painful process to endure, Pearce too could see the change in his game.

"It would have been nice to win that game (Origin III), get everyone off my back," Pearce said.

"I feel like I've been playing well for the Roosters most of season but I feel like I've got more time since I've come back from Origin.

"I feel like I've learned a bit out of it.

"I used to worry a lot about other things, I try to focus on the moment now and let things take care of themselves, back my instinct."

Foran has seen that instinct many times before - in the schoolyard, the front lawn, the local footy field - but the tight bond was tested on more than one occasion.

"It was always Liam and Mitch versus me and a couple of my mates," Foran recalled.

"It would always end up in me and Liam having a scrap or me and Mitch going toe toe to toe, sooking for three days then shaking hands and getting back at it again.

"We couldn't stop kicking the footy, we loved every bit of league.

"It probably went a bit against the script of playing in the same team in a grand final - here we are playing against each other."

Their weekly catch-up for lunch or a coffee could be a victim of the hectic list of commitments that go with grand final week, but the text messages will still be there.

Like the one Foran send just moments after the Roosters booked their place alongside the Sea Eagles in Sunday's decider.

"I thought he was man of the match," Foran said of Pearce's performance against Newcastle.

"I texted him and said `see you next week.'"


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