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Ben Cousins

Personal information
Full name Benjamin Luke Cousins
Date of birth 30 June 1978 (1978-06-30) (age 31)
Place of birth Geelong, Victoria
Recruited from East Fremantle Football Club (WAFL)
Height/Weight 1.79 m (5 ft 10 in) / 78 kg (172 lb)[1]
Position(s) Centre
Club information
Current club Richmond Football Club
Number 32
Playing career1
Years Club Games (Goals)
1996–2007
2009–
West Coast Eagles
Richmond
238 (205)
12 (4)   

1 Playing statistics to end of Round 19, 2009 season .

Benjamin Luke Cousins (born 30 June 1978 in Geelong, Victoria)[2] is an Australian rules footballer, best known for his successful 238-game career with the West Coast Eagles and several off-field incidents that led to a year-long ban from AFL in 2007. Richmond Football Club drafted Cousins for his return to professional football in the 2009 season.

Cousins was recruited from junior football by the East Fremantle Football Club in the WAFL. Three AFL clubs competed to draft him and Cousins chose the West Coast Eagles, debuting in 1996. During his eleven years with West Coast, he won several of the league's highest individual awards including a Brownlow Medal, Most Valuable Player and a premiership medallion, was selected six times in the All-Australian Team and represented Australia in the International Rules Series. He was West Coast's club champion for four seasons and captain for five seasons.

His football career has been marred by highly-publicised off-field incidents involving recreational drug use, traffic convictions and association with criminal elements. On several occasions he was fined or sanctioned by the West Coast Eagles, culminating in his contract's termination on 17 October 2007.[3] On 19 November he was banned from AFL for one year by the AFL Commission for "bringing the game into disrepute".[4] Cousins was cleared to return to football in 2009 and was drafted by Richmond Football Club on 16 December 2008, leading to a surge in Richmond's club membership.

Contents

Early life

Cousins was born in Geelong in 1978, to parents Stephanie and Bryan, a former player for the Geelong Football Club. When Cousins was 18 months old, his family moved back to Perth,[5] where he was raised with younger siblings Matthew, Sophie and Melanie. He played junior football for the Bull Creek-Leeming Junior Football Club,[6] and for his private school, Wesley College. In his last year at Wesley in 1995, Cousins was recruited to join the East Fremantle Football Club's senior side in the WAFL, and played for both his school and East Fremantle throughout the season.[5]

While Cousins was still at school, three AFL teams competed to draft him under the Father-Son Rule: Geelong Football Club, West Coast Eagles and newly formed Fremantle Football Club. Cousins' father Bryan played for Perth Football Club in the WAFL, and played 67 games for Geelong in the AFL. Geelong's recruiting manager, Stephen Wells, said, "Ben barracked for Geelong and we tried everything to get him here".[5] However, Cousins preferred to remain based in Western Australia and chose West Coast in October 1995.

Career

1996–2004: Debut and rising popularity

At 17, a week after his tenth WAFL game for East Fremantle, Cousins played his first AFL match and kicked two goals for West Coast against Geelong.[5] He won the Norwich Rising Star award for his debut season in 1996, polling 15 votes from the six judges to beat Shannon Grant by one point.[7]

Cousins' popularity continued to increase over the following seasons. In 1998, the Herald Sun ran a two-page article across its centre pages about 20 year old Cousins, titled "West goes wild for the kid". The article portrayed Cousins as a sex symbol and "football's answer to Brad Pitt". When asked about the article, he said the popularity "comes with the territory... If you want to be a league footballer you have to accept that it is part of the game."[8] Sports agent Ricky Nixon approached Cousins in 1998 about managing his endorsement deals, because "He's good-looking, he elected to stay in Perth and not play in Victoria, opposition coaches take notice of him and on top of that he's a future leader."[9] In 1999, International Management Group, who managed sports stars such as Tiger Woods and Pete Sampras, said they would like to sign Ben, as "There is no doubt that he is now in the top bracket of players and has great marketing potential... Apart from being an outstanding footballer, he is a quality young man."[10] Ross Nicholas, West Coast's marketing manager, said:

"He's easily the most sought-after Eagle... No player was, or is, as popular as Ben. His appeal is so diverse. Kids want his autograph and photograph. Sponsors want him to sit next to them. They want him to push their product... If Ben's well managed, the sky's the limit for him... They've got to find the balance between his commercial potential and his contribution to the community. The club offers protection, but it's up to Ben what demands he puts himself under."[5]

In 1998, Cousins was selected in the All-Australian Team and was runner-up in West Coast's Best and Fairest.[11] Cousins played in his first AFL finals game in 1999, against the Western Bulldogs in a qualifying final at the MCG,[12] and the year included another selection in the All-Australian Team and representing Australia in the International Rules Series.[11] In 2000, Cousins signed a new three-year contract with the West Coast Eagles, reportedly worth nearly $1 million.[13] He played his 100th game amid speculation he will take over the captaincy from Guy McKenna, who was due to retire after the same game. Cousins said, "After you play two or three seasons, you think of the possibility of a leadership role down the track, but the talk of it has certainly come a lot earlier than I would of thought."[13] In 2001, Cousins was named co-captain, sharing the role with Dean Kemp.[14] He won his first club Best and Fairest at the end of the season, which he repeated in 2002 and 2003,[15] and he was again named in the All-Australian Team in 2001 and 2002.[16] Kemp's retirement saw Cousins become the captain in 2002, a role he filled until 2006. In 2005, West Coast coach John Worsfold said of Cousins' fifth year as captain, "Ben is improving all the time and with the way this group is coming along, I think he is going to be a great leader".[17]

In early 2003, Cousins injured his ankle in a game against Hawthorn, playing on through five weeks of pain-killing injections.[18] In Round 15, 2004, he injured his back and missed six games. Cousins said, "That injury is something that I got over and am probably no chance of getting a relapse... The other side to it is, because I have played 10 years of consistent AFL footy, I've probably got an older back than someone my age".[18] In Round 1, 2005, he dislocated a finger and missed one round after undergoing an operation.[18] West Coast chief executive Trevor Nesbitt said, "There's no doubt that he's at his best when under pressure and he's so resilient; he plays with injuries that other players wouldn't".[18]

2005: Ten years at West Coast and a Brownlow medal

In May 2005, Cousins and teammate Michael Gardiner drew attention for their acquaintance with John Kizon and Troy Mercanti, two underworld figures who were allegedly involved in a shooting at a Perth nightclub.[19] Cousins was in Melbourne at the time of the shooting, but newspaper columnists at The West Australian and talkback radio callers demanded he resign his captaincy.[19] Their acquaintance had previously been questioned by West Coast management after Cousins and Gardiner were photographed entering Crown Casino with Kizon in 2001.[19] Trevor Nesbitt, the team's chief executive, said:

"We are prepared to give them more than one chance. In this case, it is maybe their last chance... They have had chances before, they have had opportunities before, they have made mistakes before. It gets to the point where those mistakes can't be tolerated any longer. This hurts us. It hurts our brand. It hurts our image."[19]

Any negative effect on Cousins' popularity with West Coast supporters was short-lived, after he played his 200th game in July 2005 and was given a "rousing reception from 41,524 grateful fans",[20] as video clips of his ten years at West Coast were shown at the end of the game. Cousins was "possibly the highest-profile sportsman in Western Australia",[18] the youngest of the 10 West Coast players to reach 200 games and the 14th youngest in the history of the AFL/VFL.[18]

Cousins won the Brownlow medal, the AFL's highest individual player award, on 19 September 2005 with 20 votes, ahead of teammate Daniel Kerr on 19 votes and Nick Dal Santo on 18 votes.[21] Cousins was the favourite to win with bookmakers, after five previous top-10 finishes.[21] He did not attend the award ceremony in Melbourne, remaining in Perth to prepare for West Coast's Grand Final match against Sydney the following weekend.[21] His celebration was "very quiet, I went over to the bar, bought the folks a bottle of champagne, had one lemonade and went up to the (hotel) room. I managed to get to sleep before midnight, which was a bonus."[22] West Coast's last training session in Perth, before travelling to their first Grand Final game since 1994,[21] was attended by 3,000 fans.[22] Trevor Nesbitt, West Coast's chief executive, said he expected that the combination of the team's Grand Final appearance, Cousins' Brownlow win, and Chris Judd's Brownlow win in the previous year, would lead to a turnover of around $2 million in club merchandise.[23] Nesbitt added:

"It's quite a special time for the club and it's probably worth $1 million to WA footy as a minimum I would think... The performances of Chris and Ben assist us in raising more money for WA football and their contribution is just outstanding. They're marquee players and, apart from everything else that happens with them, they are extremely beneficial for all West Australians."[23]

West Coast lost the 2005 Grand Final to Sydney by four points, but as well as his Brownlow win, Cousins was awarded another West Coast Best and Fairest and the players' Most Valuable Player award, with 159 votes compared to runner-up Matthew Pavlich's 99 votes.[24] He was runner-up to Barry Hall in the coaches' player of the year award,[24] and in statistics, had 612 disposals, 24 goals, and ranked in the top five of the league in nine of the 12 categories.[24]

2006–2007: Captaincy resignation, Grand Final win and AFL ban

In February 2006, Cousins resigned his captaincy after an off-field incident where he fled a booze bus.[25] In May 2006, he signed a new three-year contract with West Coast, and in September 2006, West Coast won the Grand Final, defeating Sydney.[26] Cousins was suspended indefinitely by West Coast on 20 March 2007 after missing two training sessions.[27] West Coast chairman Dalton Gooding said:

"We always said we would suspend players if they reoffended and Ben has reoffended by missing training, and we have been very consistent with that... We believe he's breached his contract and acted unprofessionally and that's why he's been suspended and that's why we're giving him every opportunity to fix up his personal and private issues."[27]

After returning from four weeks of rehabilitation in Malibu, California for substance abuse,[26] Cousins was offered an amended contract by West Coast, rumoured to contain strict conditions such as repaying the cost of rehab and undertaking regular drug tests.[28] On 29 June 2007, Cousins was given clearance by the AFL to resume training with the West Coast Eagles, which he did on the following Monday.[29] However, he injured a hamstring in training,[30] delaying his comeback until West Coast's home game against Sydney on 21 July at Subiaco Oval. He gained 38 disposals in the game,[31] and six marks, inspiring West Coast's win.[32]

Cousins was sacked by West Coast on 17 October 2007, a day after his car was stopped and searched and he was arrested for drug possession,[3] which meant that he was no longer a registered AFL player.[3] He was banned from playing senior football for 12 months by the AFL Commission on 19 November for "bringing the game into disrepute",[33][4] and formally delisted by West Coast on 30 November.[34]

2008–present: Career renewal at Richmond

In November 2008, the AFL Commission cleared Cousins to play AFL football in 2009. The Commission ruled that Cousins must submit to regular drug tests, including urine testing up to three times per week and hair testing up to four times annually.[35] Cousins attended drug testing in early November with no body hair long enough to sample.[36]

Several teams showed an interest in drafting Cousins for 2009, including Collingwood Football Club, St Kilda Football Club and Brisbane Lions.[37] Collingwood sent a private investigator to Perth to follow Cousins for several days. After meeting with Victorian chief commissioner of police Christine Nixon, in October 2008 Collingwood announced that they would not draft Cousins.[38] In November 2008, after reviewing Cousins and consulting stakeholders for five months, St Kilda said they would not draft him.[39] The day before the national draft, Brisbane issued a media release that said they would not be drafting Cousins.[40] On 29 November 2008, Cousins was not selected in the 2008 AFL National Draft.[41]

Ahead of the AFL Pre-season Draft in December, Richmond Football Club approached the AFL Commission for approval to move injured senior player Graham Polak to their rookie list and thereby obtain an extra draft place to select Cousins.[42] The AFL Commission had given approval to Essendon two years earlier to do the same with Adam Ramanauskas during his battle with cancer. However, the commission denied Richmond's request.[43] Richmond selected Cousins in the Pre-season Draft with their number six draft pick on 16 December.[44] Following this Richmond received an influx of new club members[44] and Cousins trained with the team the following day in front of a crowd of around 2,000.[45] In Richmond's Round 1 game against Carlton on 26 March, Cousins strained his hamstring during the final quarter.[46] He played a game with the Coburg Football Club in the Victorian Football League before returning to the AFL in Round 7 against Brisbane.[47][48]

Personal life

In 1997, Cousins took part in an education campaign for the WA Asthma Foundation. During his first year in the AFL, Cousins said his chest often felt tight and he had difficulty playing, "but if I monitored my asthma correctly and took the right medication, I was able to overcome those effects".[49] In 1999, he had a mild asthma attack while warming up for a game against Melbourne, then fainted after the game at a restaurant. West Coast's football manager, Rod Lester-Smith said Cousins may have been affected by asthma, low blood pressure from playing the game earlier, and a corked leg that caused some internal bleeding. He was taken to Murdoch Hospital and recovered quickly.[50]

In 2001, West Coast coach Ken Judge was told by a Perth detective that Cousins and two of his teammates may be using illegal drugs. Judge passed this information on to the club's administration but no action was taken.[51] In September 2002, Cousins punched teammate Daniel Kerr at the club's Best and Fairest celebrations, after an argument over Kerr's relationship with Cousins' sister Melanie.[22][26] In May 2005, Cousins and teammate Michael Gardiner were questioned about their acquaintance with Perth underworld figures, and Cousins was called on by members of the media and the public to resign his captaincy.[19] These incidents resulted in further scrutiny of Cousins' personal life, but no disciplinary action was taken by West Coast.

On 12 February 2006, Cousins fled a booze bus by abandoning his Mercedes-Benz and girlfriend Samantha Druce in the middle lane of Perth's Canning Highway and running from police with a male passenger.[25] The male passenger was later caught and breath-tested, but Cousins eluded the police.[25][52] On 20 February 2006, Cousins resigned as captain of the West Coast Eagles;[25] he pled guilty to obstructing the path of another driver and obstructing a public officer in court in March 2006 and was fined $900 plus costs.[53] He was fined an additional $5,000 by West Coast.[54] On 3 December 2006, Cousins was arrested for public intoxication in Melbourne at approximately 4:30am and was released four hours later without being fined or making a court appearance.[55]

In early March 2007, Cousins and his girlfriend of eight years, Samantha Druce, ended their relationship.[56] Cousins was suspended indefinitely from West Coast on 20 March after failing to attend two training sessions[27] and was admitted to rehab the following day.[57] On 22 March, his father Bryan released a statement in a video broadcast by Network Ten:

"I am making this statement today not on behalf of Ben, but as a father on behalf of his son... Ben's problem relates to substance abuse and he faces a great challenge... We acknowledge the public scrutiny that comes with the opportunities and privileges that Ben has had, but I ask now with the issues that Ben faces, that my son be given the privacy and the opportunity that he needs to deal with this problem... Ben, you are not alone with this challenge. Your family, your friends, your fans and your footy club want you to overcome this issue and win in the same manner in which you have done throughout your whole career."[58]

At the end of March,[26] Cousins flew to Malibu, California for rehabilitation at the Summit Center, where he stayed for four weeks.[59] Cousins returned to Perth on 30 April, with much attention from the media.[59] On 4 May, he released a televised apology, saying:

"As you are aware I have been at an overseas rehabilitation centre for the past month undergoing treatment for a number of personal issues, including illness as the result of substance use... I apologise to the West Coast Eagles Football Club, sponsors, the AFL and the community for my actions... I know that in order to play football again I will have to be accepted back by the players and staff of the West Coast Eagles and the AFL and I'm willing to fulfil any obligations imposed on me. At the present time I don't know when I'll play again. My priority is to regain my health, my life and my standing."[60]

Chris Mainwaring, a former West Coast Eagle and close friend of Cousins, died of a drug overdose on 1 October 2007.[61] Cousins received media attention for visiting Mainwaring twice on the night of his death to provide emotional support and deliver food.[62] On 16 October, Cousins was arrested in the Perth suburb of Northbridge after police pulled over his vehicle because of "the manner of his driving".[63] Cousins' vehicle was searched and he was charged with failure to comply with a police-ordered drug assessment and possession of a prohibited drug;[63] the drug possession charge was later dropped despite police finding quantities of prescription drugs diazepam, Viagra, oxycodone and Caverta, and traces of ecstasy and cocaine on a $20 note in the car.[64] Cousins was sacked by West Coast the day after his arrest.[3]

Cousins flew to Los Angeles on 27 October to continue his drug rehabilitation at the Summit Center.[65] The media reported that Cousins was missing and had failed to attend treatment in Malibu;[66] he was admitted to hospital several days later after an alleged cocaine binge.[67] No charges were laid by US police.[68]

References

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  63. ^ a b "Police charge Cousins over drugs". The West Australian. 16 October 2007. http://www.thewest.com.au/default.aspx?MenuID=145&ContentID=43710. Retrieved 21 December 2008.  
  64. ^ Fife-Yeomans, Janet (20 October 2007). "Chemical cocktail but Ben Cousins charge axed". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,22615769-5001021,00.html. Retrieved 21 December 2008.  
  65. ^ "Ben Cousins touches down in Malibu for rehab". PerthNow. 28 October 2007. http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/story/0,21598,22661497-5014215,00.html. Retrieved 21 December 2008.  
  66. ^ "Ben in rehab, says dad". Real Footy. 1 November 2007. http://www.realfooty.com.au/news/news/ben-cousins-missing-in-la/2007/11/01/1193618984193.html. Retrieved 21 December 2008.  
  67. ^ Edwards, Michael (10 November 2007). "Cousins makes headlines after alleged cocaine binge". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2007/s2087253.htm. Retrieved 21 December 2008.  
  68. ^ "US cops: no charges against Cousins". ABC News. 20 November 2007. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/11/20/2095424.htm. Retrieved 21 December 2008.  

External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Guy McKenna
West Coast Eagles captain
2001 – 2005
Succeeded by
Chris Judd
Awards
Preceded by
Nick Holland
AFL Rising Star
1996
Succeeded by
Michael Wilson
Preceded by
Glen Jakovich
West Coast Eagles Club Champion Award
2001 – 2003
Succeeded by
Chris Judd
Preceded by
Chris Judd
Brownlow Medal
2005
Succeeded by
Adam Goodes
Preceded by
Nick Riewoldt
Leigh Matthews Trophy
2005
Succeeded by
Chris Judd
Preceded by
Chris Judd
West Coast Eagles Club Champion Award
2005
Succeeded by
Chris Judd
Preceded by
Ryan Bayley
Western Australian Sports Star of the Year
2005
Succeeded by
Paul Burgess







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