How Richmond recruited Ben Cousins - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

How Richmond recruited Ben Cousins

By Adam Cooper 16/12/2008 06:31:18 PM Comments (0)

When Bart McCulloch slipped through Richmond's fingers, Ben Cousins' hopes of an AFL return flickered back to life.

The Tigers had planned to take the young Tasmanian ruckman with their final selection in last month's national draft.

But Brisbane beat them to the punch, calling the name of the 18-year-old from Launceston at No.69.

"There was a bit of a chuckle between the Brisbane Lions' table and our table at the time because they knew they'd pinched someone who we were going after," Richmond coach Terry Wallace recalled on Tuesday.

Unable to decide who to recruit with selection 70, the Tigers decided to pass on their final pick and use it on a youngster in the pre-season draft.

They invited a handful of aspiring players to train, but none stood out.

So Richmond crammed on Cousins.

Former player Kevin Sheedy met Cousins in Perth, and urged his old club to recruit him.

Richmond officials met him last week, spoke regularly with his manager Ricky Nixon and devised a support structure which would later win approval from the AFL Commission.

Still, Richmond only had one pick in the pre-season draft, and Wallace has long spruiked youth.

So they pursued an each-way bet.

Richmond applied to have defender Graham Polak put on the rookie list while he recovered from the head injuries he suffered when hit by a tram earlier this year.

The Tigers were sure they had a strong case on compassionate grounds, as the AFL allowed Essendon to put Adam Ramanauskas on the rookie list a few years ago, when he was battling cancer.

Richmond claimed putting Polak on the rookie list was doing the right thing by him, as he could play VFL any time he felt ready, whereas on the long-term injured list he could not.

But Wallace admitted the request on Polak, if granted, would let Richmond land Cousins with no fuss.

Then on Monday, the AFL Commission knocked them back - and Richmond were not ready.

Expecting the commission to decide in their favour, Richmond had no 'what-if' scenario in place.

Now they were short on time, and under pressure from fans to get Cousins to Punt Road.

Wallace and his lieutenants spoke with board members, who said go for it.

The Richmond players, led by captain Chris Newman, urged the same.

Richmond's fans are a passionate bunch, and Wallace admitted their demand to get Cousins was also influential.

Richmond football general manager Craig Cameron tried to play down the influence of those outside the football department, but Wallace admitted there was some emotional investment.

"A lot of things change, but you could even say the wave of emotion on his side has changed," he said.

"Some clubs were scared away from where the whole public persona of Ben was going and I think that's changed."

Wallace rang Cousins one last time on Monday night and got an assurance the player was committed.

The pick was made and the gamble is on.

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