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Cousins - clean, confident and contrite

By Guy Hand 17/12/2008 06:52:04 PM Comments (0)

Ben Cousins says he's clean of drugs, clear of injury concerns and confident of a successful AFL comeback.

Cousins the drug addict became Cousins the footballer again on Wednesday after more than a year on the sidelines.

And one of the greatest players of the modern era was given a hero's welcome at new club Richmond, training for the first time in front of a crowd of around 2,000 who cheered his every move.

After a 45-minute session with his new teammates, Cousins then fronted a packed media conference, declaring:

* He was currently clean of drugs and was putting a lot of effort into his rehabilitation;

* Feared his career could be over when Collingwood, St Kilda and Brisbane all considered him and then decided not to draft him;

* Was confident his body and especially his suspect hamstrings could stand up to AFL football; and

* His alleged gangland links were overplayed, and any associations with those people were built on "sincere friendship" and forged through "hard times".

Cousins refused to declare when he had last used drugs, but said his rehabilitation was progressing well.

"I'm clean and I'm positioned well for kicking off over the next 12 months," Cousins said.

"I've used the last 12 months best I can - I'm really proud of the time and the effort I've put into my rehabilitation.

"I feel more confident now than I ever have that I can contribute both on and off the field and lead a normal lifestyle whilst trying to get the best out of myself without using drugs."

The 30-year-old midfielder has not played football since late 2007 after he was sacked by the West Coast Eagles.

He was then banned for 12 months by the AFL for bringing the game into disrepute, and has since admitted being a drug addict.

There was contrition and admission in equal parts - probing questions answered honestly during his 20-minute grilling from a media contingent of more than 100.

The only flashpoint came from Cousins' manager Ricky Nixon calling a television journalist who asked one too many questions about gangland figures a "knob".

Cousins was more forthcoming, admitting the latest story to be linked with him in lurid tabloid headlines - accused murderer Angelo Venditti - was an associate of his.

"What doesn't get reported is a lot of those relationships and associations that I have with those people have been borne out of sincere friendship and a common thread that we have found ourselves in hard times," Cousins said.

"In a lot of those cases they have been people that have played pretty significant roles in me getting to where I am today (attempting to overcome drug addiction)."

While thrilled to be back in the AFL, he admitted returning to the football spotlight was a risk, as he went through his drug rehabilitation in public.

"This is what I've wanted (returning to football). It's not necessarily the easy option," Cousins said.

"I've got a lot to prove in a football sense but putting my recovery back into the public forum is a risk, a challenge, a big thing.

"But I think it's the best chance for me to lead a normal lifestyle and a clean one.

"I'm very early on in my recovery.

"I am not out of the woods yet.

"I am a drug addict. I can't just dust myself off and automatically say it's left in the past.

"I will train exceptionally hard, leave no stone unturned and whatever happens after that is left up to the gods."

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