Rugby League

Blake Ferguson has 'served his time': Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart

Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart stands by the club's "courageous decision" to sack Blake Ferguson, but says the troubled star has "served his time" and predicted he could return to the NRL better than ever in 2015.

The NRL has cleared Ferguson to return to the game on a one-year deal with the Sydney Roosters, more than 15 months after the Raiders sacked him for a string of off-field offences.

Cleared to return to the NRL, Blake Ferguson.
Cleared to return to the NRL, Blake Ferguson. 

The NRL made the announcement on Saturday, while Ferguson, 24, was back in Canberra on a pre-season training camp with the Roosters.

The Raiders axed State of Origin stars Ferguson and Josh Dugan in 2013 for repeated off-field indiscretions, which left a massive hole in their playing roster.

But Stuart said he did not begrudge Ferguson, who he coached at Cronulla in 2009, the chance to return to the NRL for a rival team.

"He's served his time and I hope he gets his football and life back in order now and gets the opportunity to show everyone how good he is again," Stuart said.

"I've got no hard feelings against Blake, I brought him into the NRL when he was a young guy at Cronulla. I'm very confident he can get back to where he was, or even better.

"He's got so much in front of him as a football player, he needs to be as good off the field as well. He's at a very good club and I'm confident there's better things ahead for Blake."

Stuart was close to Ferguson at Cronulla, particularly his uncle, Solomon Haumono. While the decisions to sack Dugan and Ferguson were made before his appointment at the Raiders, Stuart praised the Raiders for setting a strict standard. 

"Blake's a unique, freakish talent which is why the decision by the Canberra Raiders was such a courageous one. They knew how important he was to the football team, but to their credit they put the club first," Stuart said.

"The Raiders had no other real option, the club made the right decision. It's really hurt the Raiders over the past 12 months, but the club needs to be bigger than any one person."

Ferguson tweeted that he had worked hard to "become a better person".

"I've had ups and downs, relapsing and falling into bad habits but I owe everything to my family my partner Bianca and the Sydney Roosters," Ferguson wrote. "I took for granted what I had and what talent I was given and now I have been given a second chance to make something of my life again. I will continue to work on my self as a person and repay the faith the roosters have shown me."

Ferguson has conditions on his return. He will undertake a leadership course and will be forced to meet with Roosters officials once a month. The Roosters must also report to the NRL monthly on Ferguson's progress.

Roosters chief operating officer of football Brian Canavan said Ferguson would have to abide by a strict code of conduct but there were was no specific restrictions on alcohol.

"With all that's happened, there are some specifics pulled out of the contracts and listed so us, as a club, and Blake ensure he ticks all the boxes on the criteria," Canavan said. "He'll be doing a leadership course, particularly in relationship to indigenous people.

"Blake has been totally receptive and compliant with anything that has been presented with him."

Ferguson has not played since appearing for the Raiders against the Roosters on August 10 last year. He was sacked by the Raiders and deregistered by the NRL. An attempt by the Roosters to register Ferguson before June 30 this year was rejected, before he was allowed to train with the club last month.

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