One of the most well known AFL players of our time, through both his on-field skills and off-field controversies, Ben Cousins will not be a name forgotten any time soon. His career has been in the media spotlight ever since his rise to AFL football as an 18 year old.
Ben Cousins father Bryan coached him at Wesley College, South Perth, and is credited for instilling the mature, level headed approach to the game in his son. At the tender age of 16, Cousins played for East Fremantle. Cousins, a lifelong Geelong fan, went to train with the Cats the same year along side his heroes, Gary Hocking and Gary Ablett, though years later Hocking admits that he did not know who the kid was at the time. Even though he was impressed by the club, Cousins decided to play in his home town of Perth.
INTO THE AFL
In 1996, Cousins stepped into the AFL playing as forward pocket for the West Coast Eagles. Ben Cousins played brilliantly in the pocket, but it was soon apparent that he could offer the Eagles more playing in a different role. Cousins won the Norwich Rising Star award polling 15 votes, beating Shannon Grant by one point.
A broken leg saw Cousins miss a good chunk of the 1997 season, though a return to fitness and some consistent, sensational on-field performances saw Ben winning a spot in the All-Australian teams for both 1998 and 1999. 2001 saw Cousins take over as captain of the West Coast Eagles after the retirement of Dean Kemp, and went on to win best and fairest for the club, got named in the All-Australian team, as well as coming 5th in the Brownlow Medal count.
Further fairest and best awards were attained in 2002 and 2003 as well as another All-Australian team selection in 2002. Ben Cousins continued to play well in 2004 until a hamstring injury that saw him out for 6 weeks just before the finals. With a comeback from injury in 2005, Cousins had his best season yet, and it was little surprise that he won the Brownlow medal.
Born: 30th June 1978
Played: 238 games (#35 in 1996 & 1997, #9 from 1998-2007)
2006 was where things came to a head. Ben Cousins lost the captaincy of the Eagles (succeeded by Chris Judd) in an off-field controversy when he abandoned his car and ran away from a breath testing station in Perth. It did not effect his on-field performance as he played in the West Coast premiership team and was again named an All-Australian.
In March 2007, Ben admitted to substance abuse and sought out drug rehabilitation. He was suspended by the Eagles and did not return to play until late July, where he had a fantastic comeback game with 38 possessions. The season ended early for Ben when he tore his hamstring in the finals.
October 2007 saw the finish of Ben Cousins career for the Eagles. He was arrested and charged for possession of illegal drugs, which saw him sacked and de-listed from West Coast. He was suspended from playing for 12 months by the AFL. Cousins was later cleared of the charges, and in November the AFL gave him the all-clear to play again subject to strict testing conditions.
The Saints were the main club interested in picking up Ben Cousins after Collingwood dropped out, but a vote by the board at St Kilda saw his recruitment rejected. Richmond then gave him a chance with the last round pick of the pre-season draft.