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Ben Cousins on his Eagles exit, Harley Reid and why he still “loves” Richmond


AFL great Ben Cousins never entertained the thought of leaving West Coast but ultimately understands why his career there came to an end.

At the end of a remarkably dramatic 2007 season, both off-field and on, Cousins had an inkling that perhaps his time in an Eagles jumper was done.

It came after he badly injured his hamstring in the Qualifying Final against Port Adelaide, preceding pictures of him looking distraught and emotional in the Football Park tunnel.

Cousins admits he never had plans to depart the Eagles - the club where he won a premiership, a Brownlow Medal and countless other awards - but his 12-month ban for bringing the game into disrepute through his drug addiction ended his time at West Coast.

The now 45-year-old admitted it took a while to accept he would no longer be an Eagle, however, in the end it was the correct move for all involved.

“It was a decent hamstring, so it was obviously the end of my year,” Cousins explained on Channel 7’s The Front Bar.

“But I didn’t foresee what was going to happen over the summer. It had never entertained my idea or my head ever leaving or not being a one-club player.

“When the dust settled after the club made the decision to part ways, I fully understood the situate that I had put them in and the reasons why it was probably best for everyone that a change was made.

“It took some time to come to terms with. It is a great footy club, it was such a big part of my life, and it is now, fortunately. I’m back connected and involved with the footy club.”

Part of that involvement has allowed Cousins to meet the newest sensation in Perth, Harley Reid.

The 18-year-old No.1 draft pick wears the No.9 jumper made famous by Cousins and is seen as the heir apparent both from a media frenzy sense and a playing perspective.

“In the short time he’s been playing this year he’s showed that he’s more than up to the grade,” Cousins said of Reid.

“He is exciting. I have met him a few time and he’s a big, strong kid.

“Just the way he plays, some people seem to run towards the fire or the trouble. He seems to do that with body contact.”

After spending 2008 out of the game, Cousins was afforded a lifeline by Richmond who selected him with Pick 6 in the 2009 Pre-Season Draft.

He spent two seasons at the Tigers where he shared a locker room with the likes of Dustin Martin, Jack Riewoldt, Trent Cotchin, Shane Edwards, Alex Rance, David Astbury and Dylan Grimes, who would all become premiership players for the club.

Cousins’ gratitude was evident when describing his love for the Tigers and how he followed their recent premiership run with great joy.

“It was a really tough lead-up to getting picked up,” Cousins said.

“There were no guarantees that it was ever going to happen. I was the last pick in the last draft and I was super keen to get an opportunity to play.

“It came about at the death knock and I was just rapt to be playing footy.

“I don’t like Richmond, I love Richmond.

“I will forever stay connected to the group and the footy club because they played such an important part in my life which far exceeds football.

“But even from just a pure football sense, one of the great things to come out of not finishing up at West Coast was the opportunity to come here (to Melbourne) and play football.

“It wasn’t until I got in the fabric and lived here (in Melbourne) that I learnt to love the place. Richmond was a big part of that.

“We had some tough times on-field, but even after I finished up from afar to just sit back as a supporter and fan of the footy club to be on the ride with the Tigers. There were guys that went on to play in premierships and steer the club through a dynasty.

“To watch that from afar has been one of the great joys of my footy life.”

After 32 games across two years with Richmond, Cousins retired from the AFL in 2010 as a 270-game player and one of the most decorated midfielders of his era.

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