Will Fergo be re-signed?

Andrew Johns says Blake Ferguson still a valuable NRL asset despite being dropped

4 hours ago

 Andrew Johns believes Blake Ferguson's axing is all part of a wake-up call for the winger

Rugby league Immortal Andrew Johns says it's up to Eels winger Blake Ferguson to earn his spot back into the team after being "put on notice" by coach Brad Arthur.

But he added that Ferguson's career was far from over, claiming he off-contract winger should be snapped up on "$350,000-$400,000" a season, despite being dropped to reserve grade last week.

Ferguson bagged five tries from the opening four games in a strong start to the season, before a shocking defensive performance against the Rabbitohs prompted Arthur to swing the axe, spectacularly dumping the former NSW star in favour of rookie Haze Dunster.


Making matters worse for Ferguson, Dunster impressed for the Eels last week by scoring a try during Parramatta's win over Newcastle and for the second week in a row the rookie has been given the nod to start on the wing.

Johns said Ferguson, who he believes was in contention for an Origin recall earlier in the season, only has himself to blame following a poor defensive outing against South Sydney.

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"I think they were talking about him in Origin, but against South Sydney defensively he was poor," Johns told Wide World of Sports'

"He's obviously been sent back to reserve grade to work on his game. I watched him closely on the weekend and he played well [in reserve grade], really strong which is a good sign.

"It's not only Ferguson on notice, it's every player. It doesn't matter how big a player you are, Brad Arthur said, 'If you're not performing and doing what I expect of you I'm going to drop you'.

"The young guy who went in, Haze Dunster, he went really well. It's put Ferguson on notice."


While Ferguson may be out of favour with the Eels and coach Arthur, Johns said he's confident the off-contract 31-year-old still has plenty of footy left in him and can still command a hefty salary.

"I think it's Brad shaking him up, it's not acceptable," he added.

"As I said, defensively there were some reads Ferguson got wrong against Souths. It's been happening in bits and pieces during the year.

"He (Brad Arthur) changed Tom Opacic, who's a good defender, to go on the other side and they still looked vulnerable [against South Sydney]. It's just to put Ferguson on notice and say, 'you need to work on your game'.

"When he's on, he's like an extra front-rower, he gets the sets rolling forward.

"At this stage of his career, and I don't how they manage the salary cap, but he would be a $350,000-$400,000 player.

"I think he still has a couple of years to go. When he's right, he's the most damaging winger coming out of trouble."

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              • That applies to both of us Graham.  However, you might just have noticed the issue we have on our right side that has been there for two seasons now and still not fixed? Fergo no doubt has his issues, but the fix is far bigger than him.


        • Agree, he needs more size n strength

      • Graham polkinghorne  Ok, please enlighten me, I asked the question, what are his best assets, what do you see in Dunster? What did I get wrong? Is he over 100kg? Is he fast? Does he drive through for post contact meters? 

        • Sorry Bob, should have blogged better. Yes he is quicker, has a decent step, and has better hands then Fergo, and less errors. 

          I hope Brad gives the kid 3 or 4 games to see if he can handle FG. I realy think he will go alright.

          • You posted Graham, Axel blogged. Dunster is not that quick and he has marginel  hands and less errors is subjective. He has no where near the metres in him that Ferguson has bringing  it back  and Ferguson can score tries that Dunster never could. 

            Now the subject is will Fergo be resigned, that is a different question to is Dunster going to be his replacement if he isn't. The reality is if we had creative centres then Dunster could be an adequate finisher, but reality is we haven't got a centre that sets up a winger. Most of Sivo's tries are set up by Gutho or the halves.

            Now does it have to be explained any simpler than that. 

            • His quicker than Fergo and certainly has better hands, and if we had ac6 who could read a game, twice Haze stays wide unmarked but Dylan goes short 

              So given time Dylan  and Dunster could be a wide ball combo.

        • Bob, he's 100Kg, we have several other players in the NRL squad lighter than him as well.

          What Graham has said I agree with him on it. Here's what is needed to be considered. Fergs has had a fair run over his career, and realistically if we look at his time at the eels his best year was first year, said this earlier as well. Last year was somewhat average, for all the tries he was supposed to have scored, last year, how many were there really? This year he has improved marginally but, he still cannot help himself in the way he constantly leaves his wing to try and do hero runs when a kick returner is tackled, plays the ball and Fergs takes the 2nd run, how much impact does he have there. He then ambles back to his wing. He still comes in and leaves his wing too much and makes poor decisions, if he is stepped he has no skills to turn and chase the player, too slow and more often than not he loses the race.

          He is 31 now, and making errors too often, watching Waqa, Opi with Dunster in his first game there was not those same errors croping up, the experiment to put Opi on the same side as Fergs blue up in his face, he was no better and a bit worse when Waqa was inside him. Waqa played better in that first match though. Last game after Fergs was dropped, how affective was the team? Dunster stuck to his wing, scored a try early on, and had some work to get through to get the ball down. He did not let the team down, and there looked a lot better overall especially the backs.

          How many years have we been calling for the coach to pick some young local players to give them a chance in the top side? And those calls have generally fallen on deaf ears, as the coach brings new players in slowly, in general it seems to work but, the need to bring players in that are still a bit green does not hurt them. Dunster has done nothing wrong in his games so far, first game he ran over 120mtrs, misses 2 tackles, how many other players missed the same or less? Overall his defence was more than satisfactory as well. 

          Size wise, Fergs in 102kgs 191cm tall, he also has dicky knee issues which was on show in his last NRL game. At 31 years old, if he is signed again, he will come into the team at 32 and an unknown as far as injuries are concerned and how much at that age and his dicky knees going to take him in the top side.  We all have a fair inkling of his abilities and the like, but those abilities are getting lower each year, at best.

          Dunster is 100kgs & 187cm tall. 2 kgs less than Fergs and 4cms shorter, at this point of his career his defence has shown reliability, and plays to his position in the team

          • colin hussey I will closely watch Dunster next game. Surprised you say he is 187cm and 100kg, he looked so small to me, not imposing at all. 

            “Dunster has done nothing wrong” ok fair enough, but it does seem a low bar, then again at least he hasn’t jammed in like Fergo.

            I will be interested to see how he copes with the typical Eels overly compressed defence with no real slide from the inside, can he adjust and use the sideline to jam up the opposite winger? Fergo can’t, neither can Sivo. 

            • Bob,  I have seen Dunster play in 3 trial games where he was used late in each trial game, in each of them he has scored tries. One up at Maitland and another one, that was IIRC in 2019 he remained in the reserve grade and played fairly when, nothing spectacular but did not let the team down in the games I saw briefs of, last year 2020 In the Bega trial, he along with another young eels player who has gone elsewhere, the eels were down by 8 points with 10 to go against the Rif, & the other player both came on at the same time not long after Dunster scored with 5 to go, the other player scored around a minute to go, both goal attempts failed and a draw was had. In some ways owing to the type of trial it was, it was a good result for the locals who travelled after the fires.

              That year the game was hit with the truncated season IIRC, during the whole season, no lower grades were played Dunster I believe was part of a train on group with the eels team, how many I have no idea of. 

              His first NRL game was when MJ was stood down owing to the failed tests on drugs.  BA called him at 700am if the timing was right and asked him to take MJ's spot and a reshuffle of the backs put him on the wing. He played quite well in a losing side, but for me he showed enough that I believed he was a future NRL player,

              This year he's been on the bench and had 2/3 short runs, something that BA has often done with bench players. His call up to replace Fergs has caused a lot of calls for his being not of NRL standard, poor defence, no tries *1 now*.  So now to last game, where he scored his first NRL try, I saw nothing in his performance on the field to warrant the amount of crap that has been thrown at him since that game. What a really great show/sign of so called eels supporters who on hand want experienced players that are at the top of their time, yet I am yet to see none of them making errors after playing for 50 and more games that if we lose then there is a cry to sack this player or that player and most of all the coach.

              It also gets to the abuse stage in regard to the coach and his decision making, and this is where the eels as a club and so called fans, need to run out on the paddock and prove that they are better in decision making than the players and the coaches. We get a big win over NCLE and how much of the weeks autopsy's taken place as a result that Dunster is worse than Fergs, can't do this or do that, too small. too short, too light.  Yet look at other teams and perhaps a fair guide is the rif, sure they got rolled tonight as how many of their main squad as out.  How many Riff supporters would go out and call for a posse to hang the players who lost the game making it 2 losses so far.  The rif played well with mainly young players and some likely smaller than Dunster.

              Do we want a club that either wants locals, or just import any player to fill holes with some being a good fit for those holes.

              Take a look at Dunster with a critical but fair and open mind and see how he goes on Sunday, I will be.

              As for the physical side of Dunster, and other players, most in the top 30 have profiles on the eels web sit under the teams link

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