MY THREE WEEKS IN A REHAB CLINIC
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