Sydney Roosters have signed former NSW and Canberra three-quarter Blake Ferguson for next season. Photo: Brendan Esposito
Blake Ferguson would have to undergo a risk assessment by the NSW Commission for Children and Young People if his new job as a community and development officer was to include working with junior footy teams.
The Sydney Roosters on Thursday moved to clarify Ferguson’s position with the premiers in the face of a backlash about their employment of the former NSW State of Origin winger.
The 24-year-old, who remains deregistered by the NRL after being found guilty of indecently assaulting a woman at a Cronulla nightclub last year, is in his new role but not coaching or mentoring under-age players, the club says.
‘‘With regards to junior clubs, it’s the open-age players in the junior club system such as Bondi United A-grade team for example, that he’ll be doing coaching sessions with,’’ Roosters chief executive Brian Canavan said. ‘‘He will also be working with disadvantaged groups such as the NSW Wheelchair Rugby League and with the NRL and their welfare education department. He will do indigenous mentoring and those programs will be overseen by Dean Widders at the NRL.’’
The Roosters are aware of the hurdles to overcome should his position widen to coaching juniors.
Under the Child Protection (Working with Children) Act 2012 a conviction for indecent assault automatically bars a person from working with children.
For that to be lifted, Ferguson would have to clear a NSW Commission for Children and Young People risk assessment. Anyone in child-related work must pass a "Working with Children Check".
‘‘We’ll investigate down the track the appropriate channels as to the Working with Children Check,’’ Canavan said. ‘‘I’ve already made contact with the PCYC about that ... if he does work with the PCYC.’’
After starting the new job on Thursday, the Roosters hope to have the former Cronulla and Canberra back join their playing ranks next year and are vowing to support him.
Asked about the reaction to his role with the Roosters, Canavan said: ‘‘We carefully considered all this. We realise it’s a delicate situation.
‘‘Blake has already received his penalty and indeed that is still ongoing in terms of registration. What we’re trying to do is assist a young person with his own personal career and hopefully with his football career after that. We fully appreciate the fact that people have comment on it but he’s already been penalised. The other thing about Blake is he hasn’t had the advantage of a conventional upbringing and education.’’
Ferguson’s appeal against his conviction will be heard in court next month.