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Ben Cousins retiring from AFL

By Roger Vaughan 17/08/2010 03:44:37 PM Comments (0)

Ben Cousins has been to hell and back and leaves the AFL on his own terms but now faces another profound challenge.

The 2005 Brownlow Medallist and 2006 West Coast premiership star must continue his recovery from drug addiction without the sanctuary of the game that probably saved his life.

Cousins, 32, confirmed at a packed media conference on Tuesday morning that he will retire as a player after Richmond's round-22 match against Port Adelaide.

Cousins has been one of the finest midfielders of his generation, famous for his relentless gut-running and flawless physique but a tumultuous private life also defined his career.

While he no longer has to worry about strict drug testing, a condition of his return to football last year, such measures have also helped keep him in line.

But Cousins is confident his fall from grace and the comeback at Richmond have prepared him for life as a private citizen.

"It will free up a bit of time - I've become pretty good friends with those guys (drug testers), I see them more than my missus," he joked.

"There's no doubt that's been good for me, especially initially.

"The last two years have been about getting back to living life and getting the best out of myself while dealing with addiction on a private level.

"But the last two years have held me in good stead for that."

Cousins admitted to some trepidation about life beyond playing in the AFL.

"It's been my life and it's not just a lifestyle, it's a way of thinking, it's in my marrow and that will take a little bit of adjusting," he said.

"But at the same time, I'm looking forward to throwing myself into the next phase of my life with the same vigour I've done in this one."

His father Bryan was at the media conference in the Richmond gym and acknowledged the importance of Ben's immediate future.

"It's not a matter of being proud or anything like that, I'm just pleased he's been able to achieve what he has in his life," Bryan said.

"Probably the most important chapters for him are perhaps still to be written."

Cousins was in good spirits on Tuesday and only came close to losing his composure when asked about his father.

"He's gone over and above what any father should have to and he's happily done it but it's very much appreciated," Cousins said.

Cousins said he would now pursue business opportunities in Melbourne and would maintain close links with the Tigers but would not have any immediate formal role at the club.

In time, he would like some sort of mentoring role for young people.

Cousins had a glittering career at West Coast before the Eagles sacked him at the end of 2007 and the AFL then suspended him for a season for bringing the game into disrepute.

He made his comeback with the Tigers last year and has shown strong form over the last month but Cousins said he wanted to retire on his own terms.

"I probably walk away with a couple still left in the gun," he said.

"But when you start to question whether it is the right time, it probably is."

He was flanked by Tigers coach Damien Hardwick and club football manager Craig Cameron and spoke for more than 20 minutes.

Cousins and Hardwick stressed it was the player's decision and that the club wanted him to play for another year.

Hardwick led widespread praise throughout the AFL of Cousins and his career.

"He came in a star at the age of 18 and he's going to leave a star at the age of 32," the Tigers coach said.

AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou said he was pleased Cousins was leaving on his own terms and said the Tigers star would be invited to be part of the parade of retiring players at the grand final.

When asked how he would like to remembered, Cousins initially joked "probably just as a bloke who never put a foot wrong".

But when later pressed, Cousins said his main footballing goal was always team success.

"It doesn't marry up with someone who has drug problems or had a lot of indiscretions off-field," he said.

"But that probably adds to the complexity of addiction, it doesn't always make sense but that's what I've played the game for, for team success."

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