Why Ferguson picked Eels over cashed up rivals
BLAKE Ferguson's biological father passed away almost two weeks ago at just 46 years of age.
On Friday, Ferguson buried his dad at an emotional funeral in Townsville.
It was a tragedy he kept private from all but his closest friends because of guilt and regret.
A heartbreaking occasion that convinced the troubled NRL star to quit the Sydney Roosters for the security of a $1.5 million three-year contract at the Parramatta Eels from next season.
This was all about securing his own children a better upbringing than he had.
So they could grow up without the same painful memories of being estranged from their father.
The father who left him around the same age as his own children, toddlers Harlo and London.
Ferguson didn't get to know his dad as well as he would have liked.
"We started to connect a bit in my teenage years but the relationship was never really there," Ferguson told The Sunday Telegraph. "It's my biggest regret that I never allowed him into my life and now he's gone.
"And there's nothing I can do about it. It's too late.
"It's been a valuable lesson for me and my own children."
There were no suspicious circumstances surrounding his father's death.
The tragic death of Steven Lyons occurred while the former Origin and Kangaroos winger was locked in negotiations with the Roosters, Newcastle and Parramatta.
The Knights offered four years, the most lucrative deal and the attraction of being around his old Roosters teammates Mitchell Pearce, Connor Watson, Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Aidan Guerra.
The old Blake Ferguson would have been there in a shot. Straight to the pub and the pokies.
But now it would have meant moving away from his two little boys. Like his own dad did.
"I just didn't want to leave them in Sydney," Ferguson said. "Losing my old man convinced me of that.
"I don't want my kids growing up like I did. I want to be around them as much as I can. Nothing is more important to me and playing at Parramatta will allow me to do that."
Ferguson separated from his partner earlier this year and is now living with Anthony Mundine's parents.
He has access to his boys and treasures every precious moment he gets to spend with them.
At the park, the footy, the beach or wherever they want.
"I love them so much," Ferguson said.
No one at the Sydney Roosters wanted to see Ferguson go.
He's been a popular member of the playing group and extremely close to coach Trent Robinson and chairman Nick Politis since the club took him on in 2014 when no other team would.
"We love him," Robinson said. "Ge's a really good man who's had to deal with a lot of baggage in his life.
"I know how much his kids mean to him and his Nan, his brothers and sisters. It's very special."
Ferguson endured a brutal upbringing in Sydney, surrounded by drugs and violence as his mother, Retta, and stepfather, Michael Sutherland, battled addiction. At 13 he had stopped playing league but was saved when he moved to Wellington to live with his grandmother, Joan Sutherland.
He made his debut for debut for Cronulla just five years later.
The sudden death of his biological father is now a career motivation.
A tough lesson learnt in a horrible way.
After an off-season in rehab, Ferguson has not touched alcohol or gambled this year.
There is too much at stake with London and Harlo.
Robinson is so fond of his winger that he has vowed to stay close long after he walks out of Bondi Junction.
"I've honestly loved every minute with Fergs," Robinson said. "I want our relationship to continue.
"I'll always have an interest in his footy and his life, and his family.
"Parramatta paid good money for him and it's important he got some security.
"Fergs will do it on his ear. He's 28 and still trying to improve himself."
The player himself is now determined to finish the season on a positive note with the Roosters.
You can almost hear the resolve in his voice.
"The Roosters been such a big part of my life," Ferguson said. "I want to go out with a bang.
"Over the last 10 years I've had that many issues and so much rubbish and controversy. I want to really enjoy the next part of my career."
A premiership would be perfect. To finish a hard year on a high.
"You know what, there was one thing I did know about my father.
"He worked in the mines and he worked hard for his money.
"That's something I know we had in common.
"In footy it's the same. To be successful it's all about hard work. And I have to be for my boys."
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