Blake Ferguson will not play in the NRL this season after an application by the Sydney Roosters to have him registered was rejected on Monday.
NRL chief operating officer Jim Doyle said the decision was based on an assessment of Ferguson’s record of conduct during the past two years, but the club, which is hoping to provide a vehicle for him back into rugby league is convinced he is heading in the right direction.
Doyle also said Ferguson had given an undertaking that he would go through a program of clinical support and counselling before the NRL could consider registering him, and this was not yet complete.
Roosters chief executive Brian Canavan said the tricolours "made an enquiry" about only registering a contract this year for Ferguson. The former Origin star is working for the club in an off-field role as he recovers from a long-term injury.
"Blake has not completed his support and counselling program yet," Canavan said. "They [the NRL] may revisit things after he completes that, but overriding that is Blake has a long-term injury.
"But we've seen a person who's happy to be around people. He's now got a sense of belonging to a workplace and he's been very compliant with us."
Doyle said the NRL would consider any future application for Ferguson to return to the NRL. However, he warned that a relevant factor in the decision would be whether Ferguson had engaged in and completed an appropriate clinical support and counselling program.
Last week, Ferguson was again found guilty of groping a woman during a boozy night out in southern Sydney, but his conviction was not recorded.
Ferguson was found guilty in December last year of indecently assaulting a woman during a night out at Cronulla's 2230 Bar, where he was celebrating his NSW Origin selection with teammate Josh Dugan.
He was sacked from the Raiders and has spent this season in limbo without a playing contract while recuperating from ankle surgery.
Ferguson failed to convince a judge he was innocent during a court appeal last Thursday, but he will walk away with a clean criminal record after he was placed on a one-year good behaviour bond. Judge Michael Finnane said the winger had suffered enough punishment by being prevented from playing rugby league and took into account his "Aboriginality" and the fact he had a tough childhood.
Ferguson argued during his appeal before the Downing Centre District Court that he put his hand up the dress of the victim at a Cronulla bar thinking it was a woman he had "hooked up with" earlier. His barrister Greg James, QC, argued that his client thought his advances would have been welcomed.
Meanwhile, the Roosters announced the retention of vice-captain Jake Friend on Monday along with the mid-season signings of Scott Dureau (Catalans Dragons) and Nathan Stapleton (Cronulla) before the June 30 deadline.
Friend will remain with the Roosters until the end of 2018.
"Jake works tirelessly on the important role he plays within the team and continues to improve on and off the field," Roosters coach Trent Robinson said.
"A big part of the future of our club, Jake leads by example and is someone not only I but everyone at the club values. I’m really looking forward to watching him continue to grow in the coming seasons."
Dureau has joined as halves cover for Daniel Mortimer, who completed a recent switch to the Gold Coast, while Stapleton will provide depth in the outside backs after Tatau Moga's move to the Cowboys.