By STEVE MASCORD
WHEN Canberra coach David Furner said after the stunning win over Melbourne that centre Blake Ferguson needed to “stay grounded”, he didn’t mean “off suburban rooftops”.
But the man who gave new meaning to the expression “on the tiles” by imbibing pineapple cruisers with Josh Dugan instead of training earlier this year is now down to earth enough to play State Of Origin, according to his captain.
Ferguson scored 16 points in Canberra’s shock 24-20 win over Melbourne at AAMI Park, a match that saw hooker Glen Buttriss play half an hour with compound fracture of the finger before a calf injury finally claimed him and the Raiders battle on with two reserves for most of the match.
It ended the Storm’s run of consecutive wins at 15, four short of the all-time record, and was the Green Machine’s third consecutive victory in Melbourne.
Ferguson was suspended for missing training with Dugan, fractured his cheekbone upon his return and then made his comeback as a late inclusion against North Queensland in round seven.
Melbourne simply couldn’t stop him on Saturday night..
“The way he defended, he was very strong and in attack he was palming them off as he scored a couple of tries as well,” said Campese, who answered “I think so” when asked if Ferguson was a NSW contender.
“You could tell during the week he wanted to get out there and have a big game. He prepared the best he has all year.”
Furner said of Ferguson “grounded, keeping grounded”. The man himself added: “I’ve still got to work on a few things. Everyone sees the tries and things but I see other things in my game I need to fix up.”
There were times yesterday they seemed destined to win but the short-handed Raiders just had too much heart in the end.
They lost Tom Learoyd-Lahrs to a foot injury in the opening three minutes and then Joe Picker was knocked out. Coach David Furner defended the decision to send him back on.
“Our medical staff assessed him there at halftime and did the necessary procedures to be able to use him,” said Furner.
“Losing Tommy there didn’t help, Joey getting knocked out, one thing after another.
“Young Buttriss, he’s got a compound fracture of the finger. They bandaged him up, he got through.
Ferguson’s second try, which he converted, made it 12-12 for halftime and then Jack Wighton (47 minutes) and Reece Robinson (53) gave the Raiders a 24-12 lead. Robinson followed up twin brother Travis from last Monday with a sizzling effort, right through the teeth of the defence over 80 metres from dummy-half.
Melbourne’s left-side defence of Justin O’Neill and Mahe Fonua will come under the blowtorch by Bellamy after they failed to contain Ferguson and Sandor Earl.
“There’s a bit of a feeling out there that we think we just have to turn up and because we’re playing at AAMI Park and we’re wearing a Storm jersey, it’s just going to happen for us,” said Storm captain Cameron Smith.
“Clearly it isn’t. We’ve nearly been rolled the last two games. We need a huge turnaround in our attitude.”
The tryscoring was even with hooker Smith missing two difficult sideline conversions. Smith and Bellamy were openly critical of Gareth Widdop kicking for Billy Slater in the dying minutes with a set to play out.
“I don’t know who the call was from,” Smith said “Bill was chasing and those guys had a bit of communication but it wouldn’t be a play that I would have put on.”
Bellamy added: “It was a poor play. I don’t know who called it.”
Furner fumed over Billy Slater’s first-half try, claiming an obstruction.
Campese said: “It’s definitely up there with one of the best wins I’ve been involved in.
“I can do a lot better than that, I know that much. That’s probably the worst performance I’ve ever put in
“I owe the boys a few beers after that.
“Beating Melbourne in Melbourne after 15 straight – we can beat anyone on our day
CANBERRA 24 (B Ferguson 2 J Wighton R Robinson tries B Ferguson 4 goals) bt MELBOURNE 20 (B Slater J Bromwich J O’Neill M Fonua tries C Smith 2 goals) at AAMI Park. Referees: A Klein/P Haines. Crowd: 15,464.
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD