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Ferguson charged, suspended from Origin

Blues star Blake Ferguson is charged by NSW police on Monday over allegations he indecently assaulted a woman during a drinking session with teammate Josh Dugan.

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Nine minutes after his name was read out by NSWRL chairman DrGeorge Peponis, Blake Ferguson was congratulating Josh Dugan on his return to State of Origin.

They were still drinking it straight out of the bottle. 

‘‘Congrats to big joshy Dugan very happy for you bra :) @Josh_Dugan #wereback,’’ he said via social media, where it has all gone so wrong for the pair before.

In limbo: Blake Ferguson leaves the police station.

In limbo: Blake Ferguson leaves the police station. Photo: Edwina Pickles

By 6.30pm, the former teammates were at Northies, the popular nightspot in Sydney’s south, and were happily posing for photographs. Shortly after 10pm, they had made their way to 2230 Restaurant and Bar, where they were seen drinking champagne straight from the bottle.

But by about 10.30pm, Ferguson’s proclamation that he and Dugan were ‘‘back’’ was in some doubt – before he had even hit camp in Coogee. A woman had made a complaint against him, a police charge and an Origin and NRL suspension followed in a dramatic first day of camp on Monday.

How did a night of celebrations turn so sour? What is clear is that it did not take long for the pair to unite over drinks after they were reunited in the Blues squad at 4.45pm. Dugan had told club officials that he had ‘‘appointments’’, which we now know to be a night out with the player he shared a boozy rooftop with earlier in the season.

Booze brothers: Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson.

Booze brothers: Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson. Photo: Twitter: @fergyferg2

A witness contacted by Fairfax Media said both players were happily posing for photographs at 6.30pm at Northies, where they had dinner. With Northies closing at 10pm, they joined partygoers walking up the Kingsway on their way to 2230.

‘‘I was standing pretty much next to them for 10 to 15 minutes waiting for mates that hadn’t come in yet,’’ the witness said. ‘‘They were getting photos taken with them and skolling champagne straight out of the bottle, both of them.

There were a couple of bottles there as well. I saw [Ferguson] try to kiss a couple of girls, and they gave him the cold shoulder.

‘‘The girls that were taking the photo ... he went up to them and said something to one along the lines of, ‘I know you’ve got a kiss for me.’ She just brushed him.’’

Dugan, the witness said, was ‘‘all right’’.

‘‘He was only skolling champagne when people were asking to get photos with him,’’ the witness said. ‘‘But they were still drinking it straight out of the bottle ... no glasses.’’

The trouble started after Ferguson had been refused re-entry to the premises. He snuck in through a rear door that opened into the kitchen area, after which an incident is alleged to have taken place.  Dugan has told friends that, while present, he did not see the alleged incident.

The licensee, Scott Matteson, said Ferguson was drinking with Dugan at the nightspot on Cronulla Street. ‘‘They were both here,’’ Matteson said. ‘‘I know they were down here and something happened. I left early but my staff finished late.’’

Matteson said police came to speak to staff when the bar was still open and requested to view security footage. ‘‘We always co-operate with police,’’ he said.

There is no inference that Dugan has done anything wrong.

Others claimed that Ferguson had been abused on the night. Former State of Origin winger Eric Grothe jnr said Ferguson had been hassled by patrons.

‘‘Blake Ferguson was abused repeatedly at club 2230,’’ Grothe tweeted on Monday. ‘‘My mate witnessed this. I don’t know if anything happened before or after this incident.’’

Northies and 2230 would have been well known to Ferguson, who spent two  seasons at Cronulla before moving to the Raiders in 2011. The players stayed in Cronulla on Sunday night and were picked up by Dugan’s Dragons teammate Trent Merrin in the Sutherland Shire early on Monday morning before reporting for NSW duty at 10am.

By then, Ferguson was officially ‘‘back’’ in camp with the Blues. But by that night he was out, suspended indefinitely from all football, and his Origin redemption story was over not long after it had begun