BY S.J. ALEXANDER
Surprise, surprise. Blake Ferguson has found himself embroiled in media speculation yet again. Controversial figure Ferguson, has now been linked with a cross-code switch to rival sport Rugby Union, a move in which he feels will re-invent his hiccup-prone career.
Following the NRL’s decision to refuse the registering of his contract, Ferguson’s time is running out. After a string of off field misdemeanours, Ferguson landed himself in hot water through being convicted of indecent assault, finding himself charged with a two year good behaviour bond. His conviction, along with his alcohol related controversies (such as the infamous rooftop ‘selfie’ with fellow star Josh Dugan, picturing both drinking alcohol whilst they were ordered not to) represents why it was an easy decision for his dismissal from the Raiders and for the NRL to de-register him.
But will it prove to be a valid decision by the NRL? Although Ferguson has slapped die-hard fans in the face through many of his indiscretions, he is described as a formidable talent. Former NRL player and Ferguson’s mentor Anthony Mundine said: “Blake has the natural talent, the speed, the step, the fend, the strength, to cut it in any number of codes.” His move to Rugby Union could be the beginning of a domino effect of big name players trying their hand in another code. With Sam Burgess and Sonny Bill Williams already committing to Rugby, Ferguson could be the next stepping stone in the poaching of more Rugby League players.
Ferguson would be easily snapped up by rich French and Japanese clubs like Sonny Bill Williams before him, who switched codes to join French club Toulon. Toulon would be extremely keen on the origin star, with both countries looking to bolster their squads for the beginning of their seasons which start in a few months’ time. In what could potentially be a big headache for NRL CEO Dave Smith, Ferguson’s bargaining power in a cross-code switch could prove pivotal in the re-registering of his contract. NRL boss Smith could also be concerned about an exodus of players changing codes: he said he would feel “sad” if another high-profile player left the NRL.
So will Ferguson be a success in Rugby? He certainly has the attributes to become a fine Rugby player, displaying his talent in the back end of last season scoring 10 tries from 11 games. But as we have seen before with other code-hoppers such as Mark Gasnier (Rugby) and Karmichael Hunt (AFL) the transition is not always so simple. Gasnier, one of the finest centres in the NRL struggled with the transition and soon found himself back in the NRL, and less said about Hunt’s AFL career the better.
In what would be a huge risk for Ferguson, a move which would make or break his career, does provide some leverage to Smith in which if Ferguson fails, he would be justified with his decision to let him go. But if Ferguson makes a name for himself, it could be the persuasion that several players, such as high-profile player and huge prospect Andrew Fifita, need to make the switch.