Wednesday July 10th. The night that New South Wales captured their first back to back Origin series win in over a decade.
The night that over 80,000 were witness to one of the greatest finishes in series history.
The night that Mitchell Pearce ended his long wait for a Blues series win from halfback.
10 years, 18 origin appearances and almost too many headlines to count … Over.
The best side story to come out of the blues literal last minute win has been the Pearce story.
That said, while the cameras followed the NSW number seven all week, another member of the NSW squad on Wednesday night was quietly putting the finishing touches on his own story of redemption.
That man was Blake Ferguson.
Now before we dive in, I’m a noted detractor or Ferguson’s off field antics and will make no excuses as such. This is purely football based and not the time or place to discuss in great detail.
Last night, the much maligned Eels and Blues winger went from villain to one of the most beloved 17 or so people in the state.
Pre series I think it was safe to say that Ferguson was far more likely to be celebrating the series win with family and friends than with teammates.
He was overlook for the series opener with Raiders youngster Nick Cotric preferred.
Although Cotric is a wonderful player and has a stack of Origin jumpers in his future, there can be little doubt that Ferguson was the more established winger.
Ferguson was in red hot form in early 2019 and was clearly the best winger in the competition in 2018.
He won a title with the Roosters and was named Dally M winger of the year.
Averaging almost 200 metres per game and scoring 17 tried before the finals even kicked off, Ferguson was a standout out wide for the tri colours.
Add to that his eight previous Origin appearances and there really was only one choice for the vacant wing spot, Ferguson..
That’s not to say I blame Fittler for not picking him. I didn’t.
Attitude issues in previous camps and the unenviable stat of zero tries in almost ten games out wide didn’t bode well.
Fittler needed a winger he could count on and Ferguson had unfortunately given him reason to doubt.
An injury to Nick Cotric probably made the decision a simple one but all reports indicate the metre eater was in line for a recall regardless.
Fittler must have had reservations otherwise he would have made the call for game one. Who could blame him?
In the space of 160 minutes though, Ferguson has gone from Origin outcast to Origin hero.
Despite his previous errors, there is no winger in the game like Blake Ferguson.
In Fergo the Eels and Blues effectively get another forward. He ran for 170 metres last night. 170 hard earned metres too.
Almost every hit up he takes is from either dummy half or first receiver coming out of his sides own 20.
The first to put his hand up for that ugly hit ups, Ferguson was almost flawless in origin three.
Add to that another 170 metres in game two and that’s a handy series to say the least despite not crossing for their elusive four pointer.
Then there was that run.
With around a minute to go a clever pass from Mitchell Pearce allowed Tommy Turbo to find space.
A marvelous set of hands later and Ferguson was down the touch line.
Every fan in blue held their breathe as he tip toed down the sideline before shifting to James Tedesco who crossed for the match, and series winning try.
He may not have touched the ball down but it’s going to take a special effort to provide a more important try assist than his 80th minute effort on Wednesday night.
With that pass, following an amazing 160 minute effort across two games, Ferguson’s Origin redemption was complete.
No more will his selection be a risk or a guessing game. He’ll now be looked upon as one of the senior players. The calmer heads. The go to players.
I honestly never saw myself typing those words about Blake Ferguson.
It just shows how far he has come in the Origin arena.
A great story with a happy ending, although at only 29 I suspect there’s more to come for the game three hero.