Blake Ferguson knows hes not Semi Radradra.
“Semi is a beast,” Ferguson said.
“No, Im myself. Im just trying to do me. Im not trying to replicate what other people do. I know what I bring to the table, thats it.”
If he brings to Parramatta what he produced at the Roosters, that will be more than enough. His new coach, Brad Arthur, described him as “the best winger in the game”, a mantle that belonged to Radradra before he left for the riches of French rugby.
It is difficult to argue. Last season, Ferguson ran for an NRL-high 5039 metres at an average of 186 a game, becoming only the third player in history to crack the magical five-kilometre mark. That form prompted NSW coach Brad Fittler to name him in an extended squad for a Blues training camp this Friday.
However, returning to the interstate arena doesnt appear to be a priority for Ferguson, who cryptically suggested he may choose not to do so.
“Obviously I have to make a decision there,” he said.
“Well see what happens. Its up to them; its up to me. Im the one who plays footy; I thought I played pretty good last year. Well see how we go.”
Of more pressing concern is making an impact on his new Eels teammates. Having accepted a three-year, $1.5 million deal, the former Kangaroos centre arrives in the golden west as not just a marquee player but a senior one.
“Definitely, me and Brad spoke about that in our first meeting,” he said.
“It was about me coming here and leading the younger guys in our top squad. They are all pretty young, some of them have only played a handful of games, one season.
“For me, its about trying to give a bit of my knowledge Ive learnt over the last 10 years. Try to make them better people and better players.”
That Ferguson is even talking about taking on a mentoring role shows how far he has come. The 28-year-old has had a chequered career, off-field indiscretions threatening to cut it short. However, he believes he has become more professional, crediting former Roosters teammate Cooper Cronk as a positive influence.
“He knew me when I was a bit loose,” Ferguson said with a chuckle. “Obviously we had a pretty good relationship, we played for Australia together, me and Coops. Hes been good for me. I took a lot out of last year, more so that previous years when I met him.
“Maybe I was ready to learn, ready to mature, to actually take in information. Hes been awesome, hes done it all. For me, I try to learn as much as I can off people, regardless of their stature in the game.”
While it didnt receive the same attention as Cronks heroics, Ferguson also played through the pain during the tricolours grand final victory. The former Raiders and Sharks three-quarter struggled through the final 30 minutes with a broken fibula. Not that he was making a big deal of it.
“Id rather talk about the Eels than the grand final win, to be honest,” he said.
Parramatta have shaken up their pre-season preparations, holding a training session on Saturday morning involving all contracted players from the NRL team right through to the Tarsha Gale and Harold Matthews squads. There were more than 150 Eels put through their paces, but most of the focus was on Ferguson.
If Ferguson can replicate his 2018 form, Radradras loss will soon be forgotten.
“Its hard to say [Ferguson is replacing him] – someone like Semi is probably irreplaceable,” Arthur said.
“But someone like Blake Ferguson, if we go on form, was the best winger in the game. We need him to make sure he replicates that form for us next year and it starts with his training.”
Adrian Proszenko is the Chief Rugby League Reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald.
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