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Cousins has vital role: Tiger's coach

By Adam Cooper 09/04/2010 01:40:45 PM Comments (0)

Richmond coach Damien Hardwick has backed Ben Cousins as having a vitally important role to help rebuild the AFL club.

Cousins has had an interrupted start to the season - twice hospitalised with a mystery stomach complaint, before the club blamed his absence in last weekend's loss to the Western Bulldogs on knee soreness.

He was below his best in the Tigers' season-opening loss to Carlton, as well as having to contend with a new round of innuendo this week sparked by media pundit and player manager Ricky Olarenshaw.

Olarenshaw's comments to a Melbourne radio station that the star midfielder and recovering drug addict "may have lost his way again" infuriated Richmond.

Hardwick backed 32-year-old Cousins, who returns to the side for their clash with Sydney at the SCG on Saturday night, as having an important role to play in his young side's development.

"He's trained well this week which is pleasing. He'll play and hopefully he plays well for us. He's an important player for our side," Hardwick said.

"He adds a lot of experience and he knows how to play the game and our young guys can learn a lot off him.

"With a young group, they're all mainly thinking about themselves, how they get themselves into the game, the game plan, that sort of thing.

"What Cuz does is actually provide great on-field leadership for us which is really important at this stage of our young players' careers."

As well as Cousins, midfielder Shane Tuck has been recalled for his first match of the season against the in-form Swans.

Hardwick said Tuck would be re-invented in a new role rather than as the tough in-and-under specialist he has become renowned as - but declined to reveal exactly what that would be.

"We've probably tried to adjust his positioning a bit. We feel with our midfield with (Trent) Cotchin, (Brett) Deledio and (Dustin) Martin we needed to reconfigure Tucky in a way," Hardwick said.

"He'll actually play in a different role which he's excited about, I'm excited about and it's good to have him back in the side."

First-year forward Relton Roberts returns after missing a week because of disciplinary reasons, while the Tigers have also elevated Alex Rance and Dean Polo.

Hardwick admitted the Tigers' learning curve was a steep one after successive hidings by Carlton and the Western Bulldogs to start the season.

But he was pleased with the way his young players were responding to the challenges.

"You learn something every week and every week we highlighted three areas, and we look for improvement in those areas against Sydney," Hardwick said.

"We're reasonably happy with where we're at and the way we're learning, and we just want to get better."

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