Ben Cousins needed rehab not Richmond, Tim Watson says

Ben Cousins after his final AFL game in 2010. Photo: Joe Armao Tim Watson thinks Richmond erred in recruiting Cousins. Photo: Angela Wylie
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Terry Wallace thought a club environment was best for the former Eagle.

Former Essendon champion Tim Watson has criticised Richmond’s decision to controversially draft Ben Cousins in 2009 after 12 months out of the game.

Terry Wallace, the Tigers coach at the time, said on The Footy Show on Thursday the club recruited the wayward former Eagle partly due to the belief that being in a football club environment would help him.

But Channel Seven commentator Watson said the club’s strategy to help Cousins’ wellbeing was misplaced because what he really needed at the time was proper medical attention in a drug rehabilitation centre.

“If there was that much concern about Ben, and obviously there was about the fact that if he couldn’t be playing football then what was going to happen to him, he was in a position whereby he should have been getting medical help,” Watson said on SEN Breakfast radio.

“He should have been in a rehab centre. If we are talking about someone who is obviously addicted to whatever it might have been that he was addicted to, then it’s not the football club environment that someone needs to be in, it’s actually in a rehab centre getting medical attention.”

The former Essendon captain said the Tigers knew the risks of drafting the former Brownlow medallist to the club.

“I think they knew what they were taking. I think they had a fair idea of what they were taking on,” Watson said.

“If you go back to that time too, there was a lot of barracking from the outside in the football world that this bloke should be given an opportunity to go back and play his football.”

Wallace said the club sought advice from medical professionals prior to picking up Cousins in the 2009 AFL pre-season draft and that indicated a footy club environment might help Cousins rehabiliate.

“We spoke to the experts at the time and they told us it was a much better spot for him to be in the environment of a football club,” Wallace said.

“Perhaps the rigours of what footy meant to him might be able to turn him back and get him back on the straight and narrow.

“Better people were informing us, more medical brains than what we were, and suggesting that the best spot for him was around a footy club.

“We went through a raft of reasons why and why not we would pick him around our board table at one stage and obviously the empathy side was one of those… certainly it was a part of the jigsaw puzzle.

“He had been cut loose from the system for 12 months and he was in a far worse place by that happening to him.”

Wallace said Richmond had to make a decision on whether the club was obliged to give Cousins a chance in order to potentially save him from sliding deeper.

“We did sit back at a board meeting and said … if we decided not to give him the opportunity to get his footy together, which meant getting his life together, how would we feel if in eight or ten weeks we woke up one morning and all of a sudden there was a news bulletin and something horrific had happened.

“We believe he was in that stage where that possibly could have been the case.”

Wallace recalled a bizarre initial interview with Cousins prior to drafting him in 2009, where a Tigers delegation was ready to interview him but had to wait more than half an hour while he was in the toilet.

“You picked him up from the airport and [we went] out of the back door… we wanted to have a meeting where no one would sort of know where it was,” Wallace told The Footy Show.

“Ben came in, we did the introductions and Ben sort of said ‘I need to go to the toilet’.

“Five minutes passed, and 10 minutes passed, then 20 minutes passed. Twenty five minutes passed and 30 minutes passed and he hadn’t come out of the loo.

“I was starting to wonder what the heck was going on.

“That was back in the time when he had shaved his head. I’m not exactly sure what was going on.

“His movements were quite erratic at the time, clearly what it said to me was this was a young man in a very bad way.”

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