Cousins, Polak impress in Tigers trial - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Cousins, Polak impress in Tigers trial

05/02/2009 05:27:34 PM Comments (0)

Ben Cousins streams through the centre and hits Graham Polak on the chest with a laces-out pass.

It might only have been an intra-club match on a hot Friday morning in February in the humble surrounds of Gosch's Paddock.

But for Richmond, the AFL club and its many long-suffering fans, it was a moment that could come to mean so much more.

Cousins was playing his first game for the Tigers since being thrown a lifeline in the pre-season draft.

The recovering drug addict - who was deregistered for a year by the AFL after being dumped by West Coast in 2007 for repeated indiscretions - showed glimpses of his Brownlow Medal-winning form.

By halftime, the coaching staff had seen enough and Cousins was whisked from the ground in a waiting car.

That was still a quarter longer than the time spent on the ground by the Tigers' long-time standard-bearer Matthew Richardson.

Despite being only a couple of weeks shy of his 34th birthday, Richardson ran around like a colt in the first term, taking marks and picking up possessions at will.

And then there was Polak, playing for the first time since he suffered brain injuries and was put in a coma after being hit by a tram last year.

The club still have no idea when - or if - Polak will be able to play competitively at AFL level again.

But just seeing the key-position player out on the ground was a lift for everyone involved at the club, including the crowd of 1,500.

Assistant coach Brian Royal has been in the game for a quarter of a century and had never seen such a large turnout for an intra-club match in Melbourne.

That's what hope - as exemplified by the signing of Cousins - can bring to a football club.

Not to mention the human interest story of Polak.

"He certainly got his hands on the footy," said Royal of Cousins.

"I thought he adapted to the pace of the game reasonably well.

"The thing with game plans is that they are quite different from club to club and Ben's probably still adapting to the speed of our game."

The big target for Cousins is the round one clash against Carlton, where he would line up against former Eagles teammate and now Blues skipper Chris Judd.

Such an encounter would go close to filling the 100,000 capacity MCG and Friday's hit-out was a step in the right direction.

For Polak, who spent upwards of 40 minutes on the ground, the priority is just to get better.

He had to get medical clearance from Richmond's doctors and the staff at Epworth Hospital before taking the field wearing a helmet.

"Today was a really important step in Graham's rehabilitation," said Royal.

"... what you've got to understand is Graham has had some fairly serious head injuries, his touch has got a long way to go and he gets tired very easily.

"But it was important for him to play in that competitive situation to find out where he was at."

Being on the receiving end of that second-quarter pass from Cousins must have been a boost for Polak.

Another encouraging sign for Richmond was the return of former best and fairest winner Mark Coughlan after nearly two years on the sidelines recovering from two knee reconstructions.

And to cap off a banner day for the club, Luxbet.com, the Northern Territory-based bookmaking arm of Tabcorp, officially signed on as co-major sponsor.

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