Ben Cousins has admitted the West Coast Eagles have "always held a special place in my heart" after playing a game in the AFL team's guernsey for the first time in 16 years. Cousins played in an exhibition legend's game against the club's Second Generation Academy at Optus Stadium on Sunday before the Eagles' clash with GWS.
It marked the first time since 2007 that Cousins played a game - albeit a kick and giggle - in the West Coast guernsey since his tumultuous exit from the club. The 44-year-old played alongside fellow premiership winners Darren Glass, Drew Banfield and Michael Brain, as well as club legends like Phil Matera, Ashley Sampi and David Wirrpanda.
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A number of the players' children also took part in the AFL 9's-style game, including Cousins' daughter Angelique (9), son Bobby (11) and step-son Alex (17). Members of the crowd could be heard chanting 'Cuzzie' every time he went near the ball, as was so frequent during his heyday when he won a premiership and Brownlow Medal while at the Eagles.
"It's fantastic. It's good to see some old familiar faces and have a kick and see all the kids enjoy themselves," Cousins told the West Australian afterwards. "It's the first opportunity I've had to have a kick on Optus Stadium and it's magic.
"It [West Coast] was such a big part of my life and at certain times I have been a little bit removed, [but] it has always held a special place in my heart. It's fantastic to be back in the fold with some of the guys I played with."
The majority of fans were overjoyed to see Cousins back on the footy field. Many commented on how happy and healthy he looked.
He’s still got the touch 😃
— ziggy (@prosperity64) March 27, 2023
Wow.... what a transformation. Thats the best thing I have seen in footy for years. Well done Ben..... and his supporters.
— Paul Mansell (@Mansell05) March 26, 2023
Good on you Ben ♥️👏
— lindy. (@littlejackieboy) March 27, 2023
Ben Cousins getting back on track after fall from grace
Cousins is attempting to get his life back on track after a staggering fall from grace since his retirement. He was previously convicted of stalking his ex-partner and spent more than six months in jail.
The 44-year-old has endured a well-documented battle with drug addiction and had a number stints behind bars. During his prime he was one of the AFL's top midfielders and played a crucial role in West Coast Eagles' premiership triumph in 2006.
He played 238 games for West Coast, but off-field troubles cost him the captaincy in early 2006 and he was sacked by the club after the 2007 season. He returned to the AFL in 2009 and played 32 games for Richmond before he retired at the end of 2010.
In 2021 he made his return to the footy field for Queens Park in the Perth Metro Football League, and has been working in an assistant coaching role with WAFL side Perth Demons. At the end of the 2021 season he attended the Brownlow Medal ceremony for the first time in 11 years alongside friend Kellye Fergus.
When asked at the ceremony 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.
"(There's been) a little bit behind the scenes, but that's part of it. You find yourself 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."
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