BLAKE Ferguson made a surprise return to rugby league for Three Ways United – but it wasn’t enough as the Griffith side fell just short of glory at the Koori Knockout at the weekend.
The former NSW Origin star was not expected to play, having lost contact with the team’s coaching staff in the lead-up to the annual Indigenous carnival.
But he ended up featuring in all three of United’s matches at Raymond Terrace and showed flashes of brilliance throughout.
It took a battle for Ferguson to even pull on a Three Ways jersey, with his presence prompting a protest from opposition sides, who claimed he should not be allowed to play given the circumstances surrounding his exit from NRL side Canberra Raiders.
“They reckoned he was suspended from the NRL, which he’s not – he just had his contract torn up,” coach Graham Carroll said.
“Anthony Mundine was there and he vouched for him and said a few words about it, so he was allowed to play.”
Ferguson gave no indication as to what his future holds, despite rumours he could sign for the Sydney Roosters or Cronulla Sharks.
“He hadn’t had a game of football in about nine weeks but he played reasonably well,” Carroll said.
Three Ways won its first two games convincingly, smashing the Redfern All Blacks 70-0 before overcoming the Mungindi Grasshoppers.
But the Griffith side’s tournament ended abruptly in its next match on Sunday, with the North West Barbarians taking the win by virtue of scoring the first try in a 14-14 draw.
“It was very disappointing,” Carroll said.
“We had a few decisions go against us but you can’t blame it on that.”
Andrew Fifita was another shock starter for Three Ways and played well across the weekend, while his twin brother, David, featured in the first match before skipping back to Sydney in preparation for the NSW Cup grand final on Sunday.
Penrith halfback Luke Walsh was in outstanding touch for United while Yenda’s Kodie Charles was the pick of the local players.
Josh Curphey also had a strong tournament, while Jarrad Williams and Richie Bamblett starred sharing the dummy-half role.
Ferguson, Walsh and both Fifita brothers confirmed their intention to play again for Three Ways in next year’s Koori Knockout, which will again be held at Raymond Terrace after the Newcastle Yowies made it back-to-back competition wins.