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AFL news: Tribute to Ben Cousins after footy charity cameo

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AFL great Ben Cousins couldn’t wipe the smile off his face as he served as captain for a charity football match in Perth on the weekend.

Former West Coast Eagles premiership player Ben Cousins couldn’t wipe the smile off his face as he took part in a charity football match in Perth on the weekend.

The 43-year-old served as captain for the Crusaders in a 157-125 loss at Leederville Oval to the Spartans, who were led by former Brisbane Lions player Des Headland.

It marked the first time Cousins had captained a football team since the 2005 AFL grand final, where West Coast suffered an agonising 8.10 (58) to 7.12 (54) defeat against the Sydney Swans.

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The charity match supported Footy For Life, an organisation that raises funds for The Happiness Co Foundation and Lifeline WA.

Cousins showed off his ripped physique in a red and white uniform, posing with teammates and fans for photos after the 32-point loss.

Teammate Tim Brayshaw wrote on Facebook this week: “There is no better way to portray the concept of Footy For Life, than through the character and resilience of the man who has soared at the highest of highs and lowest of lows.

“You should be incredibly proud of yourself Benny Cousins. No matter what the critics may say, it is the man in the arena that matters most.

“Sometimes you get the opportunity to fly with some Eagles.

“Although we didn’t sneak away with the win, there were much more important wins at play, and the kind that can’t be measured on the footy field.”

Cousins, whose life had gone off the rails because of drug addiction, made his long-awaited return to the footy field last year for the Queens Park Bulldogs in the Perth Metro Football League.

The 2005 Brownlow Medallist looked in terrific physical shape as he helped the Bulldogs to a 40-point win over Koongamia, starting on the forward flank and playing a role in his team’s first goal of the game.

Before the hitout in May last year, Cousins had not played any football since his retirement in 2010.

Cousins played 238 games for West Coast and finished his AFL career at Richmond, where he played a further 32 games.

Since retiring, Cousins’ well-publicised drug addiction has continued to make headlines.

He pleaded guilty to a drug offence in April last year and received a $1500 fine after police found him in East Victoria Park with about 2.5 grams of methamphetamine in his possession.

Cousins has previously served prison time for stalking the mother of his children, Maylea Tinecheff.

In October last year, Cousins was named “employee of the month” at the Perth construction company he works at as a full-time scaffolder.

He was also heaped with praise after accepting an invitation to the 2021 Brownlow Medal in Perth, appearing on the red carpet alongside guest Kelley Fergus.

But speaking on Fox Sports’ The Back Page last year, football presenter Tara Rushton said fans shouldn’t forget Cousins’ past behaviour as the media romanticised his return to footy circles.

She added it was important not to ignore the experiences of his former partner as AFL lovers were quick to voice their joy at seeing the six-time All-Australian doing so well.

“I guess the thing that’s really interesting is it ended up being one of the biggest headlines from the night, that Ben Cousins walked the red carpet,” Rushton said after the Brownlow Medal.

“I mean, it is great to see someone get their life back on the straight and narrow, you would hope. He’s had a long battle with mental demons, drug abuse, he’s been in jail. The media really fed into this story.

“I just worry sometimes that we can romanticise the return and forget about … the stalking charges that he had against him. I’m just thinking from the perspective of his partner and the kids that he has.

“So, first and foremost, mental health and to be fighting those battles, that’s a good thing — but I think we in the media really tried to romanticise that return and that homecoming as such.”

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