ADRIAN Lam has described Blake Ferguson as an “unbelievable” signing for Leigh Leopards but says the former Australian Test star was “desperate to get home.”

Ferguson, signed to the Super League newcomers until to the end of 2024, has been released on compassionate grounds.

And with Papua New Guinea international Nene Macdonald having moved to Leeds Rhinos, Leopards are two key players down less than a month into pre-season training.

There was no hint of Ferguson’s departure at Leopards’ high-profile re-brand in October.

But head coach Lam now says: “There has been a health issue in the family and Blake feels he wants to be there.

“So, we have released him on compassionate grounds. He really wanted to be there with his family.

“It was important for him and also to his indigenous culture. As a club we supported him in that.

“There is no ‘is he coming back, or is he not?’ He has just been granted permission to get back for his immediate family.

“Our hearts are with him and we support him. We understand where Blake is coming from. He was desperate to get home.

“From past experience, players need to be there for as long as they can to help. That seems as though it might be long term but we can’t guarantee that at the moment.”

Ferguson, 32, initially joined the club last April until the end of the season but later agreed a new two-year extension. He scored four tries on his debut against Workington Town.

“Blake has been unbelievable. What he has done on the field surpassed our expectations,” added Lam.

“He is a world-class player and bringing him to the club was a sign to other players in the world you can come to a club that will host international players.”

Macdonald, 28, was third top try scorer in the Championship last season but had been linked with a switch to Headingley for months.

“I am a little bit disappointed but Nene did a great job to help us progress into Super League,” confirmed Lam.

“Leeds approached us and wanted to look at the opportunity of taking Nene for two years.

“I was happy to keep him for another year and potentially extend it from there.

“But we could only guarantee for 12 months so we didn’t step in his way to chase after that.”