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Sports presenter Tara Rushton has called on AFL fans to show some perspective and not 'romanticise' Ben Cousins' appearance at the Brownlow Medal on Sunday night.
Cousins made his first appearance at the Brownlow Medal in 11 years on Sunday night, attending the prestigious ceremony at Optus Stadium in Perth.
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As a past winner, the 2005 champion is invited to the Brownlow Medal every year, but his staggering fall from grace has seen him stay away.
The former West Coast Eagles captain has battled through a well-documented drug addiction and hadn't been to the Brownlow since retiring from the AFL in 2010.
He was convicted of stalking his ex-partner in November last year and spent more than six months in jail.
Nevertheless, commentators and fans were overjoyed to see Cousins back in the AFL fold looking happy and healthy on Sunday night.
But according to Rushton, we can't forget the experiences of Cousins' former partner and the reasons why he was behind bars.
“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 on the Back Page.
“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.”
Western Bulldogs great Brad Johnson agreed, saying it would be interesting to see if Cousins can keep his life on track.
“I agree with Tara. He looked good, it’s the best that we’ve all seen Ben Cousins in a number of years now so I think it goes beyond this, and I think that’s where Tara is leaning towards as well,” Johnson said.
“Yes, we enjoyed the moment of seeing him back I suppose, but it’s what’s next?
"That’s the biggest challenge for anyone in this position let alone a Ben Cousins who has that spotlight on him continually.
“It’s what happens over the next days, the next weeks, the next months, the next years for Ben Cousins.”
Great to hear an absolute Champion of our great game Ben Cousins is alive and well and is attending this years Brownlow Night and back in the AFL arena where he belongs. Enjoy the night mate. I sure enjoyed coaching against you. #neverdoubtafightingchampion #alwaysinyourcorner pic.twitter.com/LAoXoPqZDe
— Kevin Sheedy (@Kevin_Sheedy) September 18, 2021
I hope beyond hope that Ben Cousins’ appearance on the Brownlow red carpet is the start of a recovery and redemption story..especially for his parents, his ex partner and his children . He has put them all through hell.
— NickMcCallum7 (@NickMcCallum7) September 19, 2021
The male and female looking at Ben Cousins in this shot sums up the way, on the whole, both genders feel about his redemptive Brownlow attendance pic.twitter.com/yIY1JVGaff
— Benjamin Peter Quirk (@benjquirk) September 19, 2021
I’m happy for Ben Cousins but I’m still uncomfortable with the constant romanticising of him by the media and now twitter tonight, why do people turn a blind eye to domestic violence committed by ex AFL players?
— lil 🕊 (@lilzzzza) September 19, 2021
Why are they still glorifying Ben Cousins? Why is he even there? 🙄🙄
— Krystal (@KrystalAmber_x) September 19, 2021
Ben Cousins' return at Brownlow Medal ceremony
Asked on Sunday night if he was back on the right path, Cousins replied: "Yeah absolutely."
"It's definitely a big night. It's been a while since I've been to one of the football industry nights. So I'm looking forward to it."
Cousins was asked how much work it took for him to attend the Brownlow and who helped him.
"(There's been) a little bit behind the scenes, but that's part of it," he said.
"You find yourselves in different situations along the way. It's just great to be here tonight. There's been plenty of people. I won't go into it tonight.
"I'm just very fortunate that I've got the opportunity to come to one of football's great nights."
At his peak, Cousins was one of the AFL's top midfielders and played a crucial role in the Eagles' 2006 premiership victory.
However his off-field troubles cost him the West Coast captaincy in early 2006 and he was sacked by the club after the 2007 season.
Cousins played 238 games for the Eagles and returned in 2009 to play 32 games for Richmond before he retired at the end of 2010.
His life then spiralled out of control and he has had numerous run-ins with the law in the years since.