Andrew Johns says Blake Ferguson still a valuable NRL asset despite being dropped
4 hours ago
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.
"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."