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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Eagles Kissing Cousins Good Bye

The West Coast Eagles has parted ways with troubled young star Ben Cousins indefinitely after the notorious party kid failed to attend training yesterday. He was also drug tested after further evidence of his lifestyle came to light on the weekend. His suspension for breaching team rules means he will not be able to play or train with the Eagles or their WAFL club East Fremantle. His club has indicated it is unlikely he'll be able to return for some time as he sorts out personal issues in his life.

In the end, the shock announcement this afternoon (Tuesday, 20th of March) was hardly a shock at all: after the build up of public incidents, bad press and disturbing stories, it was clearly just a matter of time before the Cousins' issues would come to a head. After all, it was just last year that his sidekick and co-conspirator Michael Gardiner threw away his career in spectacular fashion. It seems fitting and appropriate that Ben Cousins - whose flame always shone that bit brighter - would be able to hang on for an extra half season. Certainly Gardiner gave the sincere impression of genuinely not giving a shit about himself or his team, whereas with young Benny Boy it was more a case of "see what I can get away with".

Chief Apologist at the WCE, Dalton Gooding, finally got sick of the excuses and announced the axe had fallen. In the context of the string of public disgraces noted by The Age against Cousins, it seemed inevitable:

In fact, new accounts had come to light over the weekend regarding that last incident. At the time, the club was keen to spin this as public drunkenness. However, a follow-up story by investigative journalist Andrew Rule has thrown another light on the incident with a damning eye witness report:
It happened a little after 2 am on Saturday December 2, when the good Samaritan stopped at a traffic light near the casino and saw a young man standing in the street, "shivering".

"I asked him if he was all right and he walked towards the car and I realised it was Ben Cousins," he told The Sunday Age yesterday.

Cousins is renowned for being able to run all day — and a long way at night to avoid a booze bus — but this time the iron man of the midfield could hardly move.

Cousins was so "out of it", the social soccer player — and Rules fan — later told friends, that he offered him a lift to get him off the street for fear he would be run over. Cousins waved a $50 note and mumbled that he wanted to go "back to" Eve nightclub, a few hundred metres away, and threw himself into the back seat of the car.

The 30-year-old driver, who does not want to be identified, says he was shocked and concerned at Cousins' distressed condition. "He was sweating and paranoid. He had his hands over his face and was looking around as if he was frightened someone was chasing him. He said someone had hit him — he pulled up his shirt and showed me his stomach. He was jumping all over the back seat. I think I can tell the difference between being drunk and drugs and I'd say he was tripping out bad — his brain was fried on some hard-core stuff, I'd say."

Cousins was aware of his condition and concerned about being recognised, the driver said. "I had a girl with me who didn't recognise him until I said his name and then he said, 'No, no. It's not me!' He stayed in the car about five minutes, talking. I really gave it to him. I said, 'What are you doing, ruining your career, mate?' And he said, 'No drugs, no drugs, I don't want that.' "

The driver took him to the nightclub from where, Cousins had claimed, he had been "chased" earlier. "I don't know if someone really chased him or not," he said. When the driver politely refused his offer of payment, Cousins thrust a $10 note at him, got out and walked unsteadily towards the casino.

That was the last the driver saw of him until a photograph of his famous passenger appeared in the newspapers two days later. Someone had caught Cousins "asleep" on the ground near the casino before the police came and locked him up for four hours. (The Age, 18/3/2007)

The exact sequence of events is unclear at this stage: did this story break, then the drugs test was ordered, then the failure to attend training, and then the announcement of suspension? Or did the story directly trigger the suspension, and the announcement and dropping from training happened as a result? These questions get to the heart about how the club has "managed" Cousins' dangerous game.

This whole ordeal is very sordid. Cousins thought he could have it all. His club tried to protect him for a long time. Then it all unraveled. The only positive to come out of it is that good Samaritan who tried to help out a sporting celebrity in his addled state and then sat on the story for three months.

What a shame the only time Cousins gets frank feedback on his life is when he's out of his gourd. Perhaps if he'd got those messages while be able to grasp and remember them, his career might have ended differently.

*** Update ***

After being booted from the team, elements of the media reported that Cousins went on a bender ("partying spree") for several days. More reports circulated that he was in denial about his drug addiction, apparently to crystal meth. These reports of Ben's denial were denied by his father Bryan, opening the possibility that the entire Cousins clan is in denial. Or not. It's hard to make sense from this even without being left drug-addled by a raging ice addiction.

What is certain is that Ben Cousins is now in rehab in Malibu and Eddie McGuire is still giving commentary and advice for reasons best known to himself.

The AFL offered to pay for Cousins to go on a charter flight, presumably so he could withdraw in private. (Sure, with $800K a year you might think he could make his own way to rehabilitation, but then you wouldn't know much about how footy works.) In the end, he went economy class on a commercial flight - upgraded to business class, of course. Can't have a man of his standing mixing with the riff-raff.

While no-one can say for sure what will happen, here's hoping Cousins gets well, apologises and lobbies to reform the AFL drugs policy.

*** UPDATE ***

Ben Cousins is back from rehab in the US and has spoken to the public. His carefully-scripted set piece was read from an auto-cue and goes for about one minute. Here's a partial transcript; click the link for the full transcript of his "apology":
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 would like everyone, if they can, to respect my privacy whilst I continue treatment and meet the significant challenges that lie ahead. (AFL, 4/5/7)

His apology is a little light on details, but then, he has to ensure that he doesn't cause too much scrutiny of his behaviour, or that of his club - or indeed the entire failed AFL drugs policy.

Citations: The Age, 18/3/2007; AFL, 4/5/7

Word Count: 1350

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  • Are you working for the Eagles now? How do you know the Eagles haven't been frank with their assessment? It could be that they have been a little light handed with punishment, but there is no evidence if they have been frank or not.

    In saying that, there was reports this evening that the Eagles where told 5 years ago that there was a culture problem at the Eagles and nothing was done.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:35 pm, March 20, 2007  

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  • Just one out of hundreds, the only difference is that this moron was caught. Who cares if he is good at his sport, he is a criminal, most likely a drug pusher considering his links with the underworld. He will probably be back by round 1.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:45 am, March 22, 2007  

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  • I think we can safely rule out any prospect of Ben Cousins being a drug pusher. The guy "earns" a reputed $800K a year - more than enough to pay for his lavish lifestyle.

    Still, he's a bad man who has done bad things in a place full of that. Recent problems coming to light now suggest the WCE fostered a culture of looking the other way.

    BTW, when I say frank, I mean something like "Ben, you have to choose between the drugs and playing in the AFL. You can't do both."

    The clubs are unable to deal with these kinds of issues because they are too focused on chasing that 1% or 2% competitive advantage that a player like Cousins brings.

    Discipline needs to come from the League since they have the interests of the entire game to consider.

    In the context of a couple of dozen players keen on winning a flag this season, it's hard to stand up to someone like Cousins. But in the context of 500 players with footy careers, it's a no-brainer.

    By Blogger Greg, at 1:32 pm, March 22, 2007  

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  • If you're looking for more commentary on the notorious Ben Cousins Affair, there are several dozen thoughtful and considered comments on this topic following an earlier post about Cousins's Booze Bus Dash.

    By Blogger Greg, at 7:27 pm, April 02, 2007  

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  • I find it rather cheap that you make such awful comments in regards to Ben. I think everyone is forgetting that Ben is only human! Yes there is no argument that Ben has made some mistakes over the years but that doesn’t mean we should forget all he has achieved. Ben captained West Coast for a number of years and even though Chris Judd is now captain Ben as long as he played would always be the spiritual captain of the team. He is a fantastic player and has a lot to be proud of he is a Brownlow Medallist and a Premiership player and despite any awful words anyone says about him he has many fans that are still sticking by him. Perhaps people have forgotten what it is to be a supporter? We are living in an ugly world and despite what people think or say the AFL, not just Ben, or the Eagles are exposed to drugs. Ben is not alone are we forgetting of the great Gary Ablett and his many years of substance abuse?
    Ben started his football career at a young age and has been right up there in the limelight for over 10 years. YES Ben has made a mistake BUT he has recognised this and is making the right choices to get help. The poor guy had to leave the fricken country to do this! If the Media and everyone left Ben alone for 5mins and let him do what he does best (play DAMN good Footy) then maybe this wouldn’t have reached this point. If this was any of the small time players it wouldn’t have been plastered all over the papers as much. What about JEFF FARMER bashing his wife this was quickly swept under the carpet. Does this mean that we condemn drug addiction but approve of Women Bashers? Is this what it has come down to?
    Ben is not a criminal he is a young guy that has been given a lot of money at a very young age; of cause he is going to experiment with drugs they are too easily accessible. Perhaps before we start accusing the guys of being criminals we should justify the true meaning of criminal? I believe it to be murderers, rapists, paedophiles etc. these people are actually hurting people - the only person Ben has hurt is himself.
    Personally as a long time fan of Ben Cousins and West Coast I think that Ben has done the right thing and instead of criticising everything Ben has done wish him all the best in his recovery and look forward to welcoming him back to the club.
    Good luck Ben your still our Number one matey!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:21 pm, April 15, 2007  

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  • What is it with West Coast fans not being able to see their hero is a criminal? He's a junkie, has been for years if you believe the reports.

    If your definition of a criminal was commonly accepted what sort of world would this be? I can rob a bank as long as no-one gets hurt? I can abandon my car and run from a booze bus? Face it sweetie, Benny is a bad bad boy, if he ever gets back on the field it will be too soon. I for one don't want to see this junkie idolised like a certain former player - we all know what happened there.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:59 am, May 08, 2007  

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  • OMG, leave cousins alone, he works hard for his money, has won a brownlow medal and a premiership, who cares what he does in his OWN time, there are people in EVERY walk of life doing the same thing and carrying on being a GOOD CITIZEN (if u think noone u know does drugs - GROW UP). One of the hardest things to do is ADMIT you have a problem and cousey has done that, leave him alone, he's not a murderer or rapist, just human. Oh and by the way i am a HAWTHORN member. All the Best Cousey!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:31 pm, June 03, 2007  

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  • A kiss is not just a kiss! Look at these!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:16 pm, December 22, 2007  

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