by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago
Due to rampant speculation in the previous 24 hours, it came as no surprise when Ben Cousins announced that he would retire at the end of the season. He and Richmond Coach Damien Hardwick fronted a packed press conference on August 17. Cousins had approached club officials the week before but they told him to take another week to think about it. He came back, saying he felt it was the right time to leave, with his only regret being that he won't be a part of the team's future success.
There is some disappointment within the club that Cousins won't play next season. However Cousins said that if he did play one more season and suffered an injury, there would be enormous pressure on both him and the club. He did admit to feeling some trepidation at facing life after football but said it was good to be able to go out on his own terms and he is looking forward to the next phase of his life. He thanked his family, friends and the club for their support. He was especially grateful to the Richmond Football Club and Coach Damien Hardwick for giving him the chance to revive his career after being axed by West Coast at the end of 2006 and deregistered by the AFL in 2007 due to his well-documented drug addiction and rehabilitation. He also thanked the fans for their understanding and support saying it made his time in footy all the more special.
Hardwick said Cousins began as a star at the age of 18 and will leave the game the same way at the age of 32. He praised Cousins for his attitude that it was the right thing for the club for him to retire. Although Cousins expressed no desire to remain in football for the present, he did not rule out a role later on. He joked that if he were to take on a role with the club, he would be good at video work (a reference to a reality video documentary about his addiction due to air on Australian TV later this month).
AFL boss Andrew Demetriou said he would try to catch up with Cousins for a chat to discuss his future. He also said that Cousins showed that anyone can overcome a serious problem by seeking help and that Cousins' saga highlighted the dangers of drugs as well as offering hope that addiction can be overcome. Cousins, who plans to remain in Melbourne, briefly touched on his addiction, saying that getting back to playing football had helped him in his recovery and to regain self-worth and credibility. The AFLPA will continue to support and assist Cousins through their various programs.
GAMES: 238 for West Coast 1996-2007; 30 for Richmond 2009-2010
GOALS: 205 with West Coast; 12 with Richmond
HONORS: Brownlow Medal 2005; West Coast best and fairest 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005; All-Australian 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2005 (vice-captain), 2006; International Rules Series 1999; AFLPA MVP 2005; AFL Rising Star 1996; West Coast premiership side 2006; West Coast captain 2000-05
Source: theage.com.au, theaustralian.com.au, afl.com.au
Article last changed on Thursday, August 19, 2010 - 5:41 AM EDT