- Blake Ferguson missing in action
- Not-guilty plea to indecent assault charge
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- Raiders run out of patience with Blake
Axed Canberra Raiders star Blake Ferguson was seeing a psychologist twice a week at his own expense earlier this year to try and get his life and career back on track.
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But after falling back into bad habits, the Raiders were left with no option but to sack the troubled NSW state-of-origin winger.
The Raiders board voted unanimously on Friday to terminate Ferguson's contract immediately, ending a drama-filled three seasons in Canberra.
Ferguson had a get-out clause for the final two years of his deal following the sacking of coach David Furner. But Raiders chief executive Don Furner said the club decided to act after Ferguson went AWOL and failed to front a scheduled board meeting on Friday.
''We worked tirelessly with Blake, we knew he had some off-field issues and we've had a plan in place towards the end of the year,'' Furner said.
''In the end, it just became untenable and we had to make that decision and move on.''
Several Raiders sources have told Fairfax Media that Ferguson is bound for Thailand this weekend, where former Raiders teammate and Sandor Earl is also understood to be escaping the scrutiny of his doping suspension.
Fairfax Media has also learnt more details of the program the Raiders put in place to try and rehabilitate Ferguson.
Despite numerous chances, Ferguson was given another lifeline by the club in March after a drinking session with sacked fullback Josh Dugan. But he was ordered to undergo counselling.
The Raiders organised a psychologist for Ferguson, which he saw up to twice a week and had to pay for out of his own pocket.
The Raiders also appointed a mentor to try and create a family-like atmosphere for him in Canberra - a former police officer and senior indigenous leader.
It coincided with the best form of Ferguson's career, rocketing him into the NSW origin team.
But it's understood the Raiders and the NRL had debated Ferguson's rehabilitation program that was put in place after he was charged with indecent assault on the eve of camp for Origin II.
The NRL suspended Ferguson for four weeks and insisted he undergo weekly counselling and work with the code's welfare department in Sydney.
The Raiders expressed concerns it was forcing Ferguson to visit Sydney once a week, arguing that Canberra would provide a more consistent environment.
The Raiders had been planning to invest between 12 to 18 months in Ferguson's rehabilitation, before he ceased communication with the club some three weeks ago.
Some, including former Raiders captain and legend Mal Meninga, have called for Ferguson to be de-registered for a year for bringing the game into disrepute. That was the punishment applied to Todd Carney after the Raiders sacked him in 2008.
NRL Integrity Unit chief operating officer Jim Doyle said any decision on Ferguson would be reserved until another club decided to lodge a contract for him.
The Sharks, Parramatta and the Bulldogs have all been linked to Ferguson. His new manager Sam Ayoub did not return calls on Friday.
"In light of the club's action and the circumstances that exist involving the player it is unlikely the NRL will consider registering any new contract without first undertaking a full review of his situation," Doyle said.
Furner said the Raiders wouldn't apply any pressure on the NRL to ban Ferguson from joining another club next season.
''That's their job, so we'll move ahead with this weekend's game and some recruiting in the off-season,'' he said.
''No one gets any pleasure out of this.
''I would have loved to see him finish his career here … it's a real shame.''
The Raiders board was also scheduled to discuss its search for a replacement coach on Friday, but has deferred those talks until another board meeting before Sunday's last home game at Canberra Stadium.