Ben Cousins has committed to playing out the season – plus finals – with his new park footy team, the club president says.
Cousins, who won a Brownlow Medal and AFL premiership before falling victim to drug addiction, played his debut match for Queens Park Bulldogs in Perth's Metro Football League on Sunday.
The former Wests Coast Eagles megastar, 42, booted a goal and drew a massive crowd in his first game since his 2010 retirement. Apparently it won't be a one-off.
"We normally get probably 150 on the Sunday afternoon and there was probably over 1000 there, so there was a lot of interest in the whole thing," Bulldogs president Ross White told SEN radio in Western Australia.
"He's keen to play the season out. One thing I heard him say early in the pre-season, he said, 'Look, I'm 42, I've probably only got 10 games left in me, I'm not going to waste any games with pre-season et cetera.
"I'm sure we can get 10 or 12 games out of him and we'll get to play finals and I'm sure he'd love to do that as well."
White revealed that Cousins had first met the club's coach away from football and expressed an interest in playing again.
"That all came out of Ben's last jail stint. There was talk late in the season, just at family get-togethers, talking footy, and Ben expressed an interest before Christmas about wanting to have a bit of a kick this year," White said.
"He said, 'I'll come down and play with you guys'. Pre-season started late January and he was one of the first on the track that first night and has been heavily involved ever since. He chose us, we didn't choose him."
White said that seeing Cousins appear for his first training session was a strange moment. Far from the disheveled figure seen on the news in recent years, Cousins turned up ready to go.
"The first night he rocked up was a Wednesday night and every photo I'd seen of him over the past 18 months was Grizzly Adams; scruffy beard, scruffy hair," he said.
"Then this guy's walking across the paddock, just in his sneakers, black T-shirt and that, and he had this cropped hair … and I suddenly realised it was Ben Cousins. It was the look of how he played 15 years ago.
"He's made a dramatic change since he got out in September, October last year. He just came down, he must have been doing lots of work anyway and he was fairly fit when he got there, and just continued to train well and train hard, even though he is 42 now."
White said that the beaten opposition side, Koongamia, had also enjoyed having Cousins on the field. The AFL great had a belated start to the season due to an ankle injury.
"Everyone likes to play against an AFL star and a Brownlow Medallist, so I'm sure there was great respect out there," he said.
"They were tackling hard but it was just part of the game. It was massive respect.
"It's good for our club. We're just a small-time club and 90 per cent of our players are Indigenous and at times, people in the past have not really been that interested in us and we struggle with different issues in trying to get support and different things.
"So Ben coming along this year has generated a lot of interest over the last two or three months. Canteen sales were massive and just the atmosphere at the ground. There's normally 150 people there on a Sunday and to have that gigantic crowd, it's just like chalk and cheese. Very good."
Cousins has lived a tumultuous life since exiting the AFL, with drug addiction and personal problems ongoing.
He was released from Hakea Prison in December, having served a seven-month sentence for stalking the mother of his children, Maylea Tinecheff.
He pleaded guilty in April and received a $1500 fine after police found him in possession of 2.5g of methamphetamine, sleeping next to his car in East Victoria Park.
Cousins played 270 AFL games, for West Coast and Richmond, booting 217 goals. He was a six-time All Australian and a four-time club champion for the Eagles.
Cousins participated in a documentary – Ben Cousins: Coming Clean – this year in which he apologised for damaging the West Coast club with his rampant drug use. He was banned from the AFL for 12 months after being sacked by the Eagles, before returning with the Tigers for two seasons.
"Oh, I am sorry, I am remorseful," Cousins said. "And the fallout from that has been pretty significant on the club.
"So, it has taken a while since that time for the club to find itself back in a position like it is today."
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