The game shouldn't turn its back on him: Roosters boss Nick Politis says Blake Ferguson deserves another chance. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
Relax, league fans: Ray Hadley has declared he does not want Ray Warren's job.
But the radio giant says Warren's son Chris or his former 2GB colleague Joel Caine should replace him at Nine, when the time comes.
Origin retreat: Trent Merrin and Luke Lewis kick back in Coffs Harbour. Photo: Getty Images
Hadley contacted this column early this morning about an item about him being the next in line to replace Warren - the undisputed voice of the game - when the 72-year-old decides to hang up the headset. "Given my major income stream and most of my time these days is taken up byThe Ray Hadley Morning Show, I have never considered replacing Rabs," Hadley told me. "I call the football on both radio and TV for fun. It’s a diversion from the rather intense matters I deal with Monday to Friday. [Nine chief executive] David Gyngell is a mate and asked me to help out, which is why I did it."
Last Saturday, your humble correspondent waded into the murky fallout between NSW coach Laurie Daley and Hadley over the relationship between Blues assistant Matt Parish and Hadley's estranged wife, Suzanne. The footy public don't seem really care what Parish and Suzanne Hadley do.
Indeed, the item stirred more debate about Hadley replacing Warren. It's not so much a claim as fact, after Hadley replaced Andrew Voss as Warren's understudy at Nine last season. Hadley has arguably been the best radio caller in the business for decades, but the transition to television has attracted an avalanche of criticism.
The same thing happened to Rabbits when he switched from 2GB to Ten to call the Amco Cup in the 1970s. It takes time. "The transformation from radio calling to TV calling is much more difficult than anyone could imagine and anyone who calls football on Channel Nine, who is not Ray Warren, is going to be criticised," Hadley said. "He’s the benchmark."
So, if not Hadley then who? Fox Sports has Warren Smith signed to a long-term deal. Like Hadley, 2GB's Andrew Moore is a superb caller, but built for radio. Triple M's Dan Ginnane is the same.
"For mine Joel Caine or Chris Warren will be the next generation of TV callers leaving Rabs and me to play golf on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons," Hadley said. "People seem to misinterpret my motives in 2014. Sports calling, whether it’s football, Olympics or the odd race meeting is simply done to challenge myself. After doing it for 32 years I’m not looking for a full-time job."
The catalyst for Blake Ferguson's return via rugby league's Betty Ford Clinic – the Roosters – came late last year when he pleaded with club supremo Nick Politis to take him in.
"I just want to give this kid a chance," Politis said. "He deserves another chance. We see some good in him. The game shouldn't turn its back on him."
Whether the troubled centre, who was convicted in December of indecently assaulting a woman on the eve of Origin II last year, deserves another chance is a very debatable point.
Actually, there is no debate. It's difficult to find anyone who thinks he does.
Furious callers, texters and tweeters to The Big Sports Breakfast sent the Sky Sports Radio switchboard into meltdown on Thursday morning in response to the Roosters casting Ferguson a lifeline. Producers say they've never had a response to a story like it.
They cannot understand how someone like Ferguson, who has been convicted of such an offence, can be working as a mentor to indigenous players and junior clubs.
It is a reasonable point that someone, not least from the NRL, should explain to the fans.
While the Roosters have been linked to Ferguson since Canberra sacked him last year, they have been equally cautious about giving a start to a player who struggles with alcohol and his off-field behaviour.
They are aware his publicised conversion to Islam hasn't kept him off the drink. They know he could turn good or bad in a heartbeat.
In the end, Ferguson won Politis over with his genuine contrition and desire to make the most of his smouldering career after a series of meetings.
Politis, naturally, also sees a dynamite centre who can tear defences apart when Ferguson isn't doing the same thing to himself off the field.
Brad Fittler will mentor him, and the former Roosters captain is sympathetic because he knows the backstory: that Ferguson has been estranged from his mother for years and he's been visiting his father in Long Bay Jail since he was six years old.
The Roosters have told the 24-year-old there are no guarantees about playing for them next year.
As far as they are concerned, the only path back for Ferguson is via the only path he knows – rugby league.
This is his last chance to stick with it.
The Playstation Blues
Origin camp? "More like a retreat," offers one insider.
From all reports, most of the Blues side were tucked up in bed well before midnight following its sort-of bonding session on Wednesday night. Which is probably a good thing, because all of them have high-tech sleep detecting devices strapped to their wrists.
We're also told most players would rather get a release from playing FIFA World Cup on Playstation than the traditional way of a thousand schooners.
Anthony Watmough, bless him, is the only one who doesn't fall into this category.
Meanwhile, we're hearing Greg Bird could make an appearance in the camp when the Blues head to Brisbane on Sunday.
The logistical nightmare of Brazil – crime, political unrest, the possible lure of Caipirinha cocktails – has scared the families of several Socceroos off making the journey to the World Cup.
There has been much natter among football's chitterati about former chief executive Ben Buckley being one of FFA's VIP guests during the World Cup in Brazil – especially in the week when Socceroos players learnt they would be receiving a pay cut.
We sniffed it out and we're told Buckley will be in attendance in his new role as Foxtel's executive director of sport.
The Socceroos were farewelled at a fancy black tie dinner at the Opera House on Thursday night.
Waratahs silence experiment
The Waratahs are back in the hunt for the Super Rugby title – but how many people actually care?
Last week, their media department lined up an interview with Israel Folau to appear on this very page in a bid to ramp up some interest for the match against the Lions.
They refused to answer calls and text messages, and then media man Russell Fairfax refused to return a call, which is surprising from a former television reporter who really should get it.
Is rugby going so well that the sport can shun easy publicity? Are the Waratahs really going so well they can act like the Miami Heat?
If the Waratahs board wants to know why they aren't attracting healthy crowds, and ARU boss Bill Pulver wonders why his organisation is struggling financially, they might want to consider how some of their franchises market the game.
"Not rejecting I am Player X ... it’s the allegations I reject." - New Zealand cricketing legend Chris Cairns took to Twitter to say that while he might be Player X in the Lou Vincent match-fixing scandal, he did not try to fix matches, as you would expect of someone called "Player X".
Adam Goodes has been racially vilified by the fan of a rival club for the second time in less than a year. So what does the Swans star do? Finds the silver lining, focusing on the fact that an Essendon fan pointed out and stared down the fellow member who made the racist remark. That's why Goodes is the Australian of the Year.
Nathan Tinkler strode into a meeting with former Knights chairman Robbie Tew three years ago and sprayed him because of Tew's refusal to hand over the club without a $10 million bank guarantee. Now, with Tinkler's Hunter Sports Group failing to pay players and staff, the former billionaire won't sign over the club to the members. Disgraceful.
It's a big weekend for ... Benji Marshall, who is tipped to turn out for the Illawarra Cutters against Newtown on Saturday. Let's hope the Henson Park faithful aren't chanting his name in "support" like Eels supporters did last Saturday.
It's an even bigger weekend for ... Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney. The discarded Blues halves will play for the Roosters against the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Friday. The Dogs are missing the halves that replaced them in the NSW side, Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds. Rugby league, fickle old temptress that she is, is a funny game.
We speak to the Rebels captain before Friday night's blockbuster against the Waratahs.
You're a bit of a cult hero in Melbourne. Is it because of your tats or because you have an amazing palate for coffee?
Ha! I don't know. Hopefully a bit of both. I do have a few tattoos – about 11 in total. I keep them inside my shirt. I don't have sleeves like a lot of other blokes.
So, no neck tats?
No, my dad would kill me.
You've got a cafe in Brisbane. Is Brisvegas coffee better than what you find in Melbourne?
You're spoilt for choice down here. There are just so many cafes, and the coffee is so good. But in Brisbane, coffee is really starting to take off. It needed that cafe and bar scene up there.
You drive a pretty cool car, I hear.
I have a 1964 EH Holden wagon. It's good. If there's not one thing wrong with it, there's another, as is the case with those old cars. You feel pretty cool when you drive those things. It's like you're in a time machine, with the column shift, big steering wheel, no power steering. It's awesome.
Now, some players seem to like Xbox, but you love your music. Last festival you went to and with which player?
The last one was Splendour in the Grass with Van Humphries. He and I have been to the last six or seven Splendours together. If we're not in the semi-finals, I will try to go this year. I'm a big fan of festivals. I loved Falls Festival down here over New Year's.
You have been named in the Wallabies squad to take on the French. Is this clash against the Tahs a "Wallabies showdown" with Wycliff Palu, as I keep reading?
I don't think so. Cliffy and I have played in 11 games or so this year, so I don't think it's a showdown. It is, obviously, a big deal. It's a tough competition and we both want to play our best for our teams. I think I was named as a six anyway.