The arrest that led to Blake Ferguson being fired by Japanese rugby club Green Rockets Tokatsu could have further-reaching implications amid suggestions the outfit is under pressure to fold.
The Chiba-based Rugby League One side announced on Sunday that Ferguson's contract had been terminated after he was arrested at a Tokyo restaurant on December 30.
It's claimed the former National Rugby League (NRL) star assaulted a man before police discovered cocaine in his possession, less than a fortnight before Green Rockets were set to begin their 2022 league campaign.
Authorities in Japan have no tolerance when it comes to drug offences, however, leading to suggestions his short-lived employers could become collateral due to the incident.
Reports in Japan have suggested executives at Green Rockets Tokatsu will be punished, or even fired, if Ferguson is found guilty.
Japan's rugby clubs are usually sponsored by or have deep-rooted partnerships with major organisations, and one coach said: “Traditional clubs and big companies would pull their team out of the competition.”
Another source commented: “They have a lot of pro players so maybe that will save them. There will be fallout everywhere across the teams.”
Former Wales lock Jake Ball is among the new faces set to debut for Green Rockets Tokatsu, while Kiwi talents Tom Marshall, Whetu Douglas and Ash Dixon are each also among the newer faces at the club.
New Zealander Joel Everson was arrested on suspicion of cocaine use in March 2020 while playing for Hino Red Dolphins in Japan Rugby League One (formerly known as the Top League).
The Southland lock tested positive for cocaine and was sentenced to 23 days in prison, while all rugby in Japan was suspended for three weeks as a result. Furthermore, the Red Dolphins also had their remaining fixtures for the season cancelled.
That incident fell less than one year after two former Toyota Verblitz players—Ryota Kabashima and Steven Yates—were each handed suspended prison sentences after being caught on drug charges.
Green Rockets published a statement on Tuesday stating their intent to play Saturday's League One season-opener against the Yokohama Canon Eagles, though they accepted some blame for Ferguson's arrest.
“NEC Corporation would like to express its deepest apologies for the arrest of Blake Ferguson, a former contracted player of NEC Green Rockets Tokatsu, a rugby team operated by NEC Corporation, on December 30, 2021, on suspicion of possession of illegal drugs, a serious violation of the law,” the statement read.
“It must be said that the efforts to inform newly contracted players of the situation were insufficient, and we solemnly acknowledge that this situation has come to pass.
“We plan to take disciplinary action against the director in charge of sports business promotion and team executives after appropriate measures are implemented.”
Ferguson, 31, signed for Green Rockets Tokatsu—where former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika is director of rugby—after he was released by the Parramatta Eels at the end of the 2021 NRL season.
The seven-time Australiarugby league international crossed to union amid a sea of expectation, but it's now in doubt as to whether he'll ever play a professional game in the 15-a-side code.
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