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Ferguson extends Raiders contract

Canberra centre and State of Origin hopeful Blake Ferguson is the first to admit a Raiders contract extension looked doubtful six weeks ago.
Ferguson extends Raiders contract
by AAP

By David Barbeler

CANBERRA, May 7 AAP - Canberra centre and State of Origin hopeful Blake Ferguson is the first to admit a Raiders contract extension looked doubtful six weeks ago.

The Indigenous All-Stars representative was on thin ice after being ejected from a Canberra music festival for spitting at patrons and drinking on a rooftop after skipping a rehab session.

Only the backing of the Raiders leadership group helped him narrowly avoid the same fate as sacked fullback Josh Dugan.

Yet news that he'll stay with Canberra until the end of 2015 shows that he's started to earn back his club's confidence both on and off the field.

His name has been mentioned as a possible State of Origin bolter following his two-try man-of-the-match performance against Melbourne on Saturday.

"It makes me very, very hungry," he said.

"That's probably one of my main goals this year, to play State of Origin, and I'd love to get a chance."

Off the paddock, Ferguson has started seeing a counsellor once a week, begun investing his money in Canberra property and self-imposed a six-week alcohol ban.

"I was getting into a little bit of trouble but I think I've really showed on and off the field that I've changed my ways," Ferguson said.

Ferguson had an extension option on his contract for the 2014 season and agreed to take it up.

In fact, CEO Don Furner was so keen to make the deal he permitted a release clause that allows Ferguson to leave the club should David Furner not be the head coach in 2014 or 2015.

"We haven't done it before from my memory in the contracts that I've done," Furner said.

"Some players just need some stability. It's a vote of confidence for Dave."

Furner added there was no behavioral clause that could see Ferguson sacked from the club if he slipped up again.

"We've discussed it, we're confident that we can put measures in place," he said.

"Could he make a bad decision in the next two years and make a mistake somewhere? Possibly, but we'll deal with it then."

Meanwhile, the Raiders have made just two changes for their clash against Newcastle at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.

Prop David Shillington has recovered from a rib injury and will return to the side off the bench for Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, who is undergoing surgery on a foot tendon.

"Timely return for Shillo, we're up against a very big pack so we'll need some size," Furner said.

Matt McIlwrick also comes back into the side at hooker for an injured Glen Buttriss (finger, calf).

Raiders: Reece Robinson, Sandor Earl, Jack Wighton, Blake Ferguson, Edrick Lee, Terry Campese (capt), Josh McCrone, Dane Tilse, Matt McIlwrick, Brett White, Joel Edwards, Joe Picker, Shaun Fensom. Interchange: Anthony Milford, Jake Foster, David Shillington, Paul Vaughan, Shaun Berrigan (18th man).


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