Wallabies icon issues warning to NRL star eyeing cross-code switch
Wallabies legend Matt Burke has issued a warning to NRL star Blake Ferguson over his potential cross-code move to rugby union.
Ferguson is on the radar of the Western Force after finding himself on the outer at the Parramatta Eels with his contract nearing an end and injuries keeping him sidelined this season.
Western Force chief executive Tony Lewis confirmed the Perth-based franchise’s interest in Ferguson, who has enjoyed a glittering career in the 13-man code, last month.
“We are very serious on the approach,” Lewis told the Sydney Morning Herald. “We believe Blake would be an exceptional rugby player. We think he is good enough to play international rugby.”
However, Burke has expressed concerns over such a move due to the fact that Ferguson has never played rugby union at a high level.
Although Ferguson has flourished in his rugby league career – where he has won an NRL Premiership, been capped seven times by Australia, nine times by New South Wales and seven times by the Indigenous All-Stars – he has never played rugby union professionally.
“Blake has got the size and skills that are transferable, but how is his passing and kicking going to go under pressure in the centres after mostly playing on the wing in league,” Burke, a World Cup winner who played 81 tests for the Wallabies, said, as per Fox Sports.
“There is a reality that you are taking a risk with a guy like this, but I don’t want to say he shouldn’t follow a dream or continue playing. I’ve been there in that regard, knowing that once I finish, what am I going to do.
“I spent another four years in the UK after I’d finished up in Australia, although I had spent my whole career in rugby, but if the Force are offering a bunch of coin, of course you would take it up.
“He may adapt if he gets a start from what we’ve seen in the past. He is big, strong, he has played Origin, so he knows the best stage. He’ll just need to get himself a mentor to get him up the speed with the intricacies of the game.”
Burke added he believes Ferguson will get “a real shock to the system” as he tries to accustom himself to the nuances of rugby union, while he also called into question the Western Force’s intent behind their pursuit of the 31-year-old.
“I think a disappointing aspect from the Western Force is that they are looking at a guy in his 30s at the back end, so why wouldn’t you recruit a couple of young blokes,” he said.
“So, from a recruiting point of view, I’d look at the Force and say, ‘guys, I’m sure there are some young guys coming through the system that would deserve a chance better than Blake Ferguson.
“You have to question the motives of what is going on there in that regard, and if he did get signed up, I think it would be one of those really head scratching moments.”
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