NRL: Lawyer blasts NRL for way it treated its young star

By Sophie Tarr

League accused of leading Blake Ferguson astray then abandoning him after trouble

Blake Ferguson leaves  the Sydney court after his sentencing. Photo / AAP
Blake Ferguson leaves the Sydney court after his sentencing. Photo / AAP

Blake Ferguson's lawyer has lashed out at the NRL for launching the young star into an alcohol-soaked celebrity bubble and abandoning him when he faltered.

Ferguson walked free from Sutherland Local Court yesterday, two months after being found guilty of touching a woman's crotch in a dimly lit Sydney pub.

Magistrate Jacqueline Trad handed him a two-year good behaviour bond but Ferguson will appeal against the sentence.

"We don't agree with the magistrate's findings or decisions, so we're taking this matter up to a superior court," his lawyer Adam Houda said outside court.

Ferguson did not know the woman he indecently assaulted during a night out at Cronulla's 2230 Bar last June. He'd been celebrating his NSW Origin selection with teammate Josh Dugan and the court heard evidence he was drunk.

CCTV footage showed the 23-year-old posing for photographs and hugging a young woman.

He then turned and moved toward his victim, who could be seen slapping and shoving him before walking away.

Mr Houda said the NRL let the former Canberra player down.

"They're quite happy to throw 18-year-old kids into a culture that's embedded in alcohol, they're quite happy to throw them into the spotlight of celebrity life where every part of their movement is scrutinised but when they can't handle that pressure they want to crush them," he said.

He argued that no conviction should be recorded because with Ferguson's career already in tatters and his reputation savaged, he'd been punished enough.

"To lose your only source of livelihood - in the hundreds of thousands - and to be humiliated is punishment enough."

Ferguson is without an NRL contract after being sacked by Canberra late last season.

But Ms Trad said it was naive for anyone in the public eye to expect to escape scrutiny after committing an unprovoked assault.

"There's no excuse, there is no circumstance where it could be appropriate to cross that line, whether or not it's caused by intoxication or whether or not it's caused by past difficulties," she said.

Ferguson's cousin, boxer Anthony Mundine, stood at his side as he walked through the media scrum outside court.

Ferguson would not comment on reports he has been seen drinking in the months since the assault.

Mundine's father Tony, a former boxing champion, was blunt when asked how he would respond if the rumours proved true.

"If he gets back on the booze I'll knock him out," he said outside court.

He was optimistic about his chances of returning to rugby league.

"Blake is very lucky he got two years of bond," he said. "Now he can go on and try to get a club to play for."

- AAP

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