MY THREE WEEKS IN A RE­HAB CLINIC

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - SPORT - DAVID RI CCI O CHIEF SPORTS WRITER

THE true depth of Blake Fer­gu­son’s form re­vival at the Syd­ney Roosters can fi­nally be re­vealed.

And what will please so many of those who have de­clared Fer­gu­son the best winger in NSW this year is that it has noth­ing to do with kick re­turns or bomb de­fusals.

Fer­gu­son, 28, has spo­ken for the first time about his three-week stint in a Wol­lon­gong mental health clinic be­fore last Christ­mas, which saved him from “los­ing it all’’.

“That was my pre-sea­son,’’ Fer- gu­son told The Sun­day Tele­graph. “Get­ting my­self right in the mind.’’

Be­fore the Roosters, NSW and Aus­tralian jumpers, and even Can­berra and Cronulla, Fer­gu­son’s grand­par­ents Rex and Joan Suther­land had raised him in the coun­try NSW town of Welling­ton after the De­part­ment of Com­mu­nity Ser­vices took him from ma­ter­nal mother Retta Fer­gu­son when he was 13.

His fa­ther spent time in jail and the next time he would see his mum was a few weeks after his 19th birth­day, when Retta spent an en­tire match at Shark Park call­ing for young Blake to see her.

She had missed his birth­day, but held a new iPod for him as a be­lated present. Few sto­ries are writ­ten about Fer­gu­son with­out men­tion­ing his up­bring­ing.

But at the end of last year the pow­er­fully built yet softly spo­ken Fer­gu­son de­cided that he wanted to change the nar­ra­tive.

Ask­ing the Roosters to deduct the cost of the course from his salary, Fer­gu­son trav­elled to the Wol­lon­gong clinic where he spent ev­ery day along­side other peo­ple need­ing help, in­clud­ing a se­nior-cit­i­zen called Mario, who still mes­sages the footy star ev­ery week.

“I went down to Wol­lon­gong and just got my head right,’’ Fergsuon said. “Things weren’t go­ing right off the field.

“I had bro­ken up with my chil­dren’s mother (Bianca). I tried to save that but that didn’t work out.

“I sup­pose you could call it a course. I was in there for three-anda-half weeks and it was for moods and anx­i­ety and learn­ing how the brain works.

“It was im­por­tant for not only my­self, but my kids and my close fam­ily. They’d seen a change in me.

“I lost it all in 2013 (when he was con­victed of in­de­cent as­sault) and then I clawed back, but then there was a chance of me los­ing it all again. So do­ing that, go­ing to Wol­lon­gong, just woke me up.

“Ev­ery­one goes through strug­gles and this was just an­other hur­dle

in my life that I needed to do. I walk-ed out with a new life." Asked spe­cially what he learnt, Fer­gu­son said; "I took away be­ing able to treat peo­ple how you want to be treated.

'I walked in and ev­ery­one was there for a rea­son and ev­ery­one is treated the same. "I was no big­ger than any­one else, no lesser, that's what I took out of it. I've brought that to the real world. I give ev­ery­one the time of day and I try and en­joy my footy. "I know it's (foot­ball) not here for that long, which is why I'm striv­ing to be a good fa­her. "I haven't drunk (al­co­hol) since De­cem­ber. I'm en­joy­ing that.

“It was never a big is­sue in my life, but it did seem to cause me prob­lems. The sac­ri­fice gives me a bit bet­ter mind­set ev­ery week — it’s not like I’m fight­ing it ev­ery week, I’m en­joy­ing it. “I wake up fresh ev­ery day.’’ Fer­gu­son is av­er­ag­ing more me­tres (186) than any other Roosters player this sea­son.

There are still one or two silly er­rors. How­ever, he’s play­ing with a no­tice­able pur­pose and knowl­edge of his role within Trent Robin­son’s star-stud­ded side.

But again, Roosters fans — so, too, NSW coach Brad Fit­tler — should ap­plaud this next dec­la­ra­tion, more so than any of Fer­gu­son’s fa- mously bru­tal and boom­ing right­hand car­ries, or left-hand fends.

“I want to try and study,’’ Fer­gu­son said.

“I’m talk­ing to our wel­fare man­ager, Narelle Hess. She’s sent me a few cour­ses and it’s about sit­ting down now and see­ing what’s in­volved. I would like to go down the path of wel­fare, where I can tell my story.

“I know a lot of peo­ple have their opin­ion of me and that’s their view.

“But the peo­ple that are close to me know the type of per­son I am and how much I’ve changed my life.

“Now I want to be able to share my story with kids who are deal­ing with the stuff I’ve had to go through.

“I want to learn to be able to tell my story with­out get­ting emo­tional.

“When I speak, I want to be able to tell my story with con­vic­tion.

“I’m also go­ing to do some stuff for Broth­ers 4 Re­cov­ery.

“My youngest brother, Corey, the ‘Boomerang Bar­ber’ is a qual­i­fied hair­dresser and he is hair­dress­ing for them at the mo­ment.

“They go around to re­gional com­mu­ni­ties and talk to dis­ad­van­taged kids.

“I spoke to him about get­ting me on board, so I can help with my story. “I want to do stuff like that. “I think my story would help and, re­ally, I’d like it to just help one kid.’’

Syd­ney Roosters star Blake Fer­gu­son is feel­ing fresh after a stint in a mental health clinic; (top right) with grand­mother Joan Suther­land. Main pic­ture: Phil Hill­yard

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