Fit again, Bulldogs five-eighth Kieran Foran says there is no reason the best years of his football career aren't ahead of him.
The 29-year-old immediately admits some observers would scoff at the suggestion given his injury history, as well as personal frustration that Bulldogs fans have only seen glimpses of his best in his two seasons at Belmore.
"I'm feeling physically really good again. It's been a tough trot for me again this year but feeling really good again and hopefully I can finish off these last two games strongly with the boys," Foran said after starring in a Canterbury win for the second straight week, Thursday night's 12-6 upset of the Eels.
"It's been really frustrating, I think I've played 22-odd games [the Eels game was his 24th] in the last two seasons which is frustrating for them and frustrating for me.
"I want to be on the field producing my best footy for them week in week out. All I can focus on is what's in my control and what's in my control is staying on the footy field – hopefully – and playing some really good footy for this club for the rest of the year and heading into next year."
Foran was a star almost from the time he hit first grade as an 18-year-old in 2009, leading Manly to a late-season push into the finals and making his Test debut that year, then winning a premiership alongside fellow young-gun Daly Cherry-Evans just two seasons later.
A tumultuous four seasons since leaving the northern beaches, plagued by back and hamstring issues, led many to question whether the 21-Test veteran's best days were behind him.
"I believe my best footy is still in front of me and that's probably a hard thing for some people to hear considering the injuries I've had," Foran said.
"But you've got to remember I'm only 29; when you're talking about halfbacks and five-eighths they're probably not playing their best footy til they're about 30, 31.
"Providing I can stay on top of my body and keep working really hard and maintaining my body, I feel mentally fresh enough and physically hopeful that my best years are still ahead of me."
One thing helping keep Foran fresh is the resurgent form of his team, who've been winning with and without him of late with six victories in their past eight games.
"It's disappointing in one aspect because you ask yourself, geez if we'd turned the corner a little bit earlier you know, we'd be in such a better position," Foran smiled.
"But take nothing away, it is just great for this club to have strung these wins back to back. The boys, the coaches, everyone to be enjoying their footy, it's been a tough 18 months no doubt about it.
"We've had a lot of losses, a lot of tough losses. You just couldn't be prouder of the way the club's turned the corner and been able to win these games."
Pressed on whether such a young and rebuilding team realistically could have turned the corner much sooner, Foran added: "You've got to be patient, it is a rather new team.
"Most clubs go through a couple of years of struggling periods before they really find themselves. It's just really good to see everyone smiling again."
Foran echoed his coach's post-game sentiments of wanting to build the club into a top-four force, but like Dean Pay, was making no guarantees about how long that might take.
"We wanted to shoot for finals this year and really struggled to get off to a good start," Foran said.
"You can't put a time frame on it [but] if we keep producing performances like that it will be sooner rather than later."