NSW coach Laurie Daley believes former bad boy Blake Ferguson will become an even better player as a fullback, but suggests he’s unlikely to play there for the Blues.
After a stellar NRL season for Sydney Roosters playing at centre, Ferguson is expected to move into the backfield next season, filling the sizeable hole left by record-breaking fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
But Daley says it won’t prevent him from selecting Ferguson for a probable return to the Origin arena at centre or wing – with Josh Dugan seemingly cemented at fullback.
“You can never say never as a fullback, but you’d think that at this stage, there’d be other people in front of him as a fullback option,” Daley said on Wednesday.
“But that’s not to say that he won’t be considered as a centre of a wing, because he will be.
“I’m sure that if he plays the same way as he did last year, then he’ll certainly be in the frame somewhere.”
In fact, Daley reckons a shift away from the centres would only enhance Ferguson’s prospects, given the extra fitness and ball-playing required in such a crucial position.
“Aerobically he’ll have to be a lot fitter than what he has been in the past,” he said.
“And it will probably change the way that he plays, but it’ll probably be good for him because as a fullback these days, you need to have good catch-pass skills.
“We haven’t seen a lot of that from Blake.”
While the series-opener remains over six months away, Ferguson, who was forced out of the game for the entire 2014 season after being convicted of indecent assault, seems likely to takeover from Will Hopoate following the right winger’s lacklustre campaign against Queensland.
Hopoate’s immediate playing future remains under a cloud, currently without a club following his departure from Parramatta.
However Daley spoke glowingly of the 23-year-old, saying he would be a “great asset” for any club in search of a strong centre.
“He’s someone that you can really build a strong culture around,” he said.
“He’s a good leader in his own right. He’s a great fella on the field, but also off the field. He brings tremendous values to whatever organisation or whatever team he’s playing in.
“I’m sure he’ll end up with a club.”