Brydens Lawyers NSW coach Brad Fittler admits Blake Ferguson's chequered past counted against him for the State of Origin series this year but his form in helping the Sydney Roosters win the Telstra Premiership has him back in the frame for a Blues jumper.
Ferguson was one of 32 players Fittler named in an extended squad for a training camp at the soon-to-open NSWRL Centre of Excellence on Friday 14 December. The squad also includes the 19 players Fittler used during this year's campaign to win their first Origin series since 2014.
Ferguson last played for the Blues in 2017 where he was criticised alongside teammate Josh Dugan for drinking alcohol in the lead-up to the decider in Brisbane. The Roosters winger starred during the 2018 season but missed out on an Origin jumper after Fittler ushered in a new generation of players.
"I considered everyone this year and things can weigh against you without a doubt," Fittler said. "You take it all into consideration.
"But everything he did this year showed that he put the team first. He was unbelievable this year. He deserved winger of the year.
"The challenge for him now is going to be to over to a club that didn't do as well as the Roosters and be a leader but if he continues to play like he does then he'd have to be considered."
Ferguson wasn't the only surprise selection with Newcastle halfback Mitchell Pearce also making the extended squad. Pearce had a long run as the Blues No.7 without winning a series and was in the mix alongside Penrith's Nathan Cleary this year before injuring his pectoral muscle.
Other names in the extended squad include Brisbane forward Tevita Pangai Junior, South Sydney backrower Cameron Murray. Former Blues in Canterbury-Bankstown's Josh Jackson and Cronulla-Sutherland's Aaron Woods were also included.
"As I said before everyone is considered and everyone will be considered next year," Fittler said.
"As a group we try and weigh up everything – what's happening and what we think will happen.
"I thought the team we chose this year were the best players to do the job and they did exactly that.
"Come May, everything will be considered. The players who did the job last year will be considered, but you've also got to consider how they're playing, how their team's going, what's gone on during the year and what's gone in the pre-season."
Fittler said he was looking forward to seeing the players in camp again after they combined to win the first Shield for NSW in four years.
"For most of them it will be the first time we've seen them since after the series," Fittler said.
"It puts a full-stop on finalising the year and getting their feedback from this year's series, and also allows us an opportunity to look ahead for our defence of the Shield in 2019.
"It's always beneficial to get them to spend time together. We won't be training but having them around each other will only further strengthen the bond they formed this year."
NSW is also in the process of finalising an Emerging Blues squad with an announcement expected in the near future.