Tigers risk Cousins in pre-season draft - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Tigers risk Cousins in pre-season draft

16/12/2008 07:34:17 PM Comments (0)

Player and people power have convinced Richmond to take one of the biggest risks in AFL history and bring drug addict Ben Cousins back to football.

Cousins was selected by Richmond with the last pick in the pre-season draft - the last chance one of the greatest players of the modern era had to play football at the highest level.

The Tigers acknowledged there were risks involved in bringing Cousins to a club which has finally assembled a competitive side after years of on and off-field failure.

But they were swayed by appeals to recruit Cousins by their players and success-starved fans, an endorsement from favourite son Kevin Sheedy, the chance to resurrect Cousins' life and career, and the rare opportunity to recruit a Brownlow Medallist for next-to-nothing.

"AFL footy is about the game itself, it's about the players who play the game, and it's about the fans who come along to watch the game and I think strongly our decision is based on all three of those things," Richmond coach Terry Wallace said.

"We believe he can be a very good player for our football club.

"He believes he can work his way through the process he needs to work through, and football is his best opportunity of being able to work through that.

"There is a humanitarian side to this as well. We're great believers in people getting second opportunities.

"What he does with that opportunity, how he presents himself ... that'll be up to Ben and how he conducts himself at our football club."

Cousins will train with the Tigers for the first time on Wednesday.

The 30-year-old will initially be on a one-year contract on far less than money than he was in his premiership-winning heyday with West Coast.

When asked if he was surprised to be drafted, Cousins said: "Nothing surprises me any more", before boarding a plane from Perth to Melbourne on Tuesday.

But those close to Cousins said he was thrilled to have been given the chance to resurrect a career stalled by drug problems and a 12-month ban for bringing the game into disrepute.

While Collingwood, St Kilda and Brisbane all seriously considered recruiting him, none did, leaving Richmond as his final hope following rejection by the other 15 clubs.

"Genuinely of relief," Wallace said of Cousins' reaction when the Tigers told him they would draft him.

"He's been through a rollercoaster of emotions. It's fair to say a lot of scenarios have come and gone for him - St Kilda, Collingwood and Brisbane.

"He knows he's created what has come his way,

and he's determined to do something about that."

Richmond captain Chris Newman said Tigers players had been vocal in their support to draft Cousins, rated one of the best trainers in the AFL despite his off-field issues.

"We thought he could set the standards high with his work ethic on the ground," Newman said.

"We had some discussions (with Wallace) about that and the players felt very strongly about it (Cousins coming to Richmond). We thought it was a huge opportunity."

The AFL has also welcomed Cousins' return, which comes with stringent drug-testing conditions including urine tests up to three times a week, plus hair testing up to four times a year.

Any failure to stick to the conditions would result in Cousins, who has admitted to a drug addiction though he has never tested positive for drugs, being suspended indefinitely pending an investigation.

"His family and friends, the football public, the wider community and now the Richmond Football Club have shown great support for Ben Cousins in his determination to overcome his condition and play football again," AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou said.

"It is now up to Ben to take that opportunity and make the most of it."

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