MANLY star Kieran Foran has declared Des Hasler a lifelong friend as he prepares to confront his ex-coach for the first time tomorrow night.
Devastated to miss the first encounter at ANZ Stadium because of a hamstring strain, Foran yesterday rated Hasler's return to Brookvale as the biggest club fixture he's ever faced.
"I haven't played a club match this big," he told The Daily Telegraph. "I've played some big ones since coming into first grade, but I don't think I've experienced anything like the build-up.
"It was tough missing out (in round eight).
"There was a big build-up too and I was looking forward to coming up against Dessie and the Bulldogs.
That week in late April did see Foran meet Hasler - albeit in a much different environment.
As the hype of Hasler's first game against Manly went ballistic, Foran visited the coach's house in Collaroy to personally report that he'd decided to stay at Manly until 2015.
The 22-year-old hasn't dropped-in since, but did reveal Hasler called him recently for a general chat. "He gave a few of the guys a call, actually," Foran said.
"We still keep in contact and share the occasional message. The same goes for a lot of the boys.
Kieran Foran (R) talks with Tony Williams at Manly's Narrabeen base. Picture: Brett Costello
Source: The Daily Telegraph
"It's like anything in life, people move on to different places and you keep in touch with the ones you want and the ones you consider friends.
"I'll always keep in touch with Dessie. He's played a big part of just about everyone's career at the club.
"So much of this has to do with Dessie coming back to Brookvale - it's the place he coached for so many years and he made it into a fortress.
"There's also a bit more to this one because the Bulldogs are running first."
The premiers, on the other hand, are hovering in seventh thanks to a failure to build winning momentum.
While injury, suspension and Origin commitments are all viable excuses, Foran was nevertheless brutal about the team's position and blamed complacency for shock losses against lowly opposition.
"We don't think it's good enough," he said.
"There's been some stuff go against us but ... it's a strong enough squad and set of platforms for us to still have won more games.
"Looking at where we are on the ladder, we should be further up there - regardless of injury or suspension, some games we just should've won.
"There's no real explanation for it.
"Yes, we might have become complacent, because some of those losses have not been acceptable."
Foran's season has been emblematic of Manly's disruptions, with the hamstring, an ankle injury and last week's flu preventing the Kiwi ace from stringing enough games together to hit peak form.
"That's been the toughest thing - we've had a lot of players out and just haven't been able to build those combinations," he said.