Blake Ferguson celebrating with Josh Dugan. Photo: Getty Images
Just three weeks ago, Blake Ferguson's ill-discipline forced fuming Canberra Raiders coach David Furner to ostracise him from the team.
But after Ferguson inspired the Raiders to a crucial win over Newcastle last week, Furner believes his aggression can help Canberra rediscover the belief needed to save its season.
Ferguson and star fullback Josh Dugan were both omitted from the side which lost to South Sydney on May 25 after breaching the club's alcohol policy.
Keen to make amends to his teammates, Ferguson's aggression was pivotal in last Saturday's 32-16 victory over the Knights.
His second game at centre since shifting from wing, Ferguson lifted his defensive intensity and pulled off some big hits on noted Knights hard man Timana Tahu.
Combine that with his seven tackle breaks and 86 metres, and the 22-year-old was arguably the best afield.
''That [alcohol indiscretion] is gone and been dealt with, what I have liked from both Josh [Dugan] and Fergo is their reaction,'' Furner said.
''They care about the side, they care about playing better footy.
''I asked Fergo to be nice and aggressive on Tahu and he sat them on their backside.
''They didn't blame anyone, they took responsibility and they've shown enough that they care about this club and the green jersey.''
Furner indicated he would continue with his experiment of shifting Dugan from fullback to five-eighth for the rest of the season.
His performance against Newcastle was a mixed bag, but Furner said Dugan's three try assists suggested he could help fill the massive void left by injured playmaker Terry Campese.
The move has allowed winger Reece Robinson to shift to fullback, where he has looked far more dangerous.
''I understand people don't give us credit at the moment, but what I do like is the positional changes can only get better,'' Furner said.
''I'm going to persevere with those positions, but there's certainly some errors we need to keep working on. I am excited about Duges playing that position, he set up three tries and got his hands on the ball, and defensively we looked better with him there.
''We have to address certain areas, but I'm happy with that change.''
Furner said he would look for Campese to mentor Dugan once he progresses further into his rehabilitation from a second knee surgery.
''Campo won't be back this year and I want him to be able to utilise his time around training, I think that's important,'' Furner said.
''He knows the players that Duges is trying to work with and I'll be looking at that when he's back on his feet and ready.''
- See tomorrow's The Canberra Times for a mid-season review of the Raiders' season thus far.