Ferguson’s booze program lifeline

Blake Ferguson will miss at least four games for the Raiders. Photo: Edwina PicklesDisgraced Origin star Blake Ferguson has been given another lifeline by the Canberra Raiders and National Rugby League, but he will be suspended for a minimum four weeks and has been ordered to undertake an alcohol management program.

Meanwhile, ACT Sports Minister Andrew Barr has backed Raiders administration and, despite investing at least $1.4million in the NRL club annually, said the ACT government had no intention of addressing the issue of ongoing player misbehaviour.

Ferguson faced the Raiders board on Wednesday morning, where he agreed to a rehabilitation plan to remain at the club.

The Raiders, in consultation with the NRL’s Integrity Unit, have suspended Ferguson for a minimum of four weeks.

The return date coincides with the third match of the State of Origin series and comes one day after he faces a Sydney court on a charge of indecent assault.

”The NRL will review Ferguson’s progress with the club after a four-week period and assess his eligibility at that point,” an NRL statement said.

”Both the NRL and the Raiders will await the outcome of court proceedings to determine a final position.”

The Raiders have spared Ferguson, pending the court process, despite threatening the 23-year-old with the sack after he went on an alcohol binge with Josh Dugan after a round-one loss to Penrith.

Dugan was sacked, one of five players in the past six years the Raiders have let go because of alcohol-related incidents. Mr Barr admitted the public would be ”getting pretty sick of footballers-behaving-badly stories”. But the government had no plans to intervene.

The government provides the Raiders with about $1.4 million in funding each year and $500,000 in payroll tax concessions – far more than the club’s major sponsor, Huawei.

”I’m satisfied that the NRL and the Raiders have the matter in hand,” Mr Barr said.

”It’s probably been to the detriment of their on-field performance in terms of some of the players they’ve lost because they take a firm position. But I completely support the position that they have to take on this.”

Former Raiders grand final hero Paul Osborne – who also served six years in the ACT Legislative Assembly and had a stint as chief executive officer of the Parramatta Eels – said Canberra’s management had led the NRL with its hardline stance against misbehaving players.

He said the decisions to sack Todd Carney in 2008 and Dugan this year – who have both gone on to play State of Origin with other clubs – had been ”brave”.

”Toddy’s a star, Dugan’s a superstar and they were brave enough to say ‘you’re not what we want at this club’,” Osborne said.

”God forbid I would have had to make that decision about Jarryd [Hayne at Parramatta], I’m not sure that I’d have been as brave as these blokes were and I think they should be applauded for it really.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.