This year’s AFL grand final should have been a celebration of sorts for Ben Cousins.
If all had gone to plan, the troubled ex-footballer would have been watching his West Coast Eagles clash with Collingwood from his seat among 100,000 fans at the MCG.
Cousins, 40, was working with the team earlier this year in a development role after being released from jail for stalking his ex-girlfriend.
Initially the role appeared a masterstroke, as Cousins kept out of trouble and smiled in a photograph alongside two of the club’s young stars – Liam Ryan and Willie Rioli.
That photo is now a sad reminder of what could have been.
As both Ryan, 21 and Rioli, 23, prepare to lineup in the biggest game of their careers at 2.30pm Saturday, Cousins will watch on TV from inside the walls of his prison cell.
Ben Cousins (centre) smiles alongside Willie Rioli (left) and Liam Ryan (right) earlier this year in his community development role with the West Coast Eagles. Cousins is now in jail, while both Rioli and Ryan will line-up for West Coast on Saturday afternoon in the 2018 AFL grand final
Cousins was offered a role working with his beloved former club upon his release from prison in January. But just three months into the role he unexpectedly stopped turning up for work
Having regularly been in trouble with police since his 2010 retirement, the law finally caught up with Cousins in early 2017 when he was jailed for stalking his ex-girlfriend.
The footballer received a 12-month prison sentence, with a court hearing he ignored a violence restraining order (VRO) and sent Maylea Tinecheff more than 2,000 texts.
West Coast said at the time of the job offer upon release they hoped their decision to help out a former favourite son would ‘have mutual benefits for both parties’.
After just a few months in the job things began to go pear-shaped for Cousins, when he soon went missing without any explanation.
West Coast CEO Trevor Nisbett soon confirmed the retired superstar had left the role in early April.
Over the next few months little was seen or heard from the 2005 Brownlow Medalist, but in August his world came crashing down once again.
The father-of-two was arrested by police after allegedly again breaching a VRO taken out against him by Ms Tinecheff.
During a routine search in custody, police allegedly found a bag containing 13 grams of methamphetamine hidden in his anus.
The last time West Coast won a premiership in 2006, Cousins (pictured with Chris Judd) was a key component of the team
Since his retirement in 2010 Cousins (left) has battled drug addiction and had several run-ins with the law, including being jailed for 12-months in 2017 for stalking his ex-girlfriend Maylea Tinecheff (right)
Last month Cousins was arrested again and charged with being in possession of 13 grams of methamphetamine. Despite the fallen footballer pleading ‘I can’t go back to jail’, a magistrate remanded him in custody (Pictured is Cousins being driven away from court on August 22)
When officers asked Cousins to remove the bag he agreed, before allegedly trying to push it further into his anus, a court was told.
In court the next day an emotionally and physically disheveled Cousins pleaded with a magistrate to grant him bail.
‘I am the victim in this. To be the subject of ridicule and embarrassment, and I know I’ve brought a lot of that on myself, but I don’t act out in violence,’ Cousins said.
‘I beg you, I beg you, I’m not a threat.
‘Every day I close my eyes when the sun goes down and I spew that it’s another day I’m not going to be with my children.
‘Someone in my situation, you should use it as an example of hope, that things will work out. Not the opposite.’
He then tearfully told his lawyer: ‘I can’t go back to jail’.
Despite his harrowing pleas, the fallen footballer was denied bail and returned to jail.
Days after his traumatic court appearance it was revealed a homeless Cousins lived in a Perth brothel in the months prior to his arrest.
Mary-Anne Kenworthy, who owns the Langtrees brothel, told The Sunday Telegraph she had been trying help out her ‘friend’.
THE TROUBLED LIFE AND TIMES OF BEN COUSINS:
1996 – Makes AFL debut with West Coast and is named the league’s Rising Star
2001 – Named club captain of West Coast at age 23
2002 – Breaks his arm falling down a flight of stairs at a nightclub months after punching his teammate Daniel Kerr
2005 – (May) Is quizzed by police about association with underworld identities
– (September) Wins Brownlow medal as the AFL’s best and fairest player
2006 – (February) Swims across a Perth river to escape a booze bus
– (September) Wins AFL premiership with the Eagles
– (December) Is arrested after passing out in front of Melbourne’s Crown Casino and spends four hours in jail
Cousins after the 2006 AFL Grand Final
2007 – (March) Suspended by West Coast after missing training session
– (April) Goes to a drug rehabilitation facility in the US
– (October) Revealed to have visited fellow Eagles legend Chris Mainwaring twice on the night he died of a drug overdose
– (October) Arrested and charged with drug offences that are later dropped
– (November) Eventually sacked by West Coast and banned from the AFL for one year
2008 – AFL re-registers Cousins and he is signed by Richmond
2010 – Retires from the AFL but releases autobiography and documentary
2015 – Arrested three times before leading police on a slow-speed car chase
2016 – (June) Spotted behaving erratically and directing traffic on a highway
– (October) In and out of court over drug offences and breaches a restraining order taken out by his ex-partner
2017 – Jailed for one year for breaching restraining order by calling his ex-lover thousands of times
2018 – (January) Released from jail on parole just 10 months into his sentence
– (August) Arrested and charged with drug possession, and breaching restraining order
‘He was staying in my apartment for a while,’ she said, but added his behaviour had seesawed and sunk to a low point.
‘He’s been very erratic for the last three months. When he’s good, he’s very good.
‘When he’s bad, he’s not with the world of the living.’
At his lowest, the AFL great reportedly tried to sell off the 2005 Brownlow medal he won by being named the best player in the game that year.
But friends claim the prized medal had been taken off Cousins by his father Bryan.
Bryan, himself a former star footballer for Geelong and Perth, said he was not ready to talk about his son’s battles when contacted by Daily Mail Australia this week.
Saturday will mark almost exactly 12 years since West Coast last won a premiership.
In 2006 the Eagles side was led by two main players – captain Chris Judd and fellow midfield star Cousins.
A shattering four-point loss the year prior was able to be overturned by the Eagles as they hung on to beat Sydney by a single score – 85 to 84.
Cousins was among West Coast’s best on-field performers that day with two goals, a feat that reportedly paled in comparison to his off-field efforts.
Their victory has since been described as ‘tainted’ by others in AFL circles who claim the full extent of the club’s ‘drug culture’ was well known.
In the lead up to his arrest last month Cousins (pictured) had reportedly been living in a brothel owned by a friend
Cousins has previously spoken openly about his drug use, including during his playing days at West Coast
In fact Nisbett has since claimed the club would give back the 2006 premiership if it meant all drug affected players could live happy and healthy lives post-football.
Cousins has previously spoken in depth about his struggles with drug addiction, and in a 2010 documentary revealed the extent to which he used drugs during his career.
‘I’m a drug addict, just flat-out. Yeah, I was drug-f**ked,’ Cousins said.
‘It was fast, it was good. They were good times. Alcohol wasn’t the big thing for me at the time. It was all about drugs for me.
‘I wouldn’t have butter on my toast, let alone a truck load of beer… (but) I’d take drugs and I would train and f***king train and obsess and play good footy.
‘I knew that at the end of that one week block, two week block or sometimes on the month, I would absolutely annihilate and launch into as much drugs as I could.’
If West Coast can overcome their highly fancied opponent on Saturday celebrations will go well into the night.
But for Cousins and other members of the club’s last win, the cost is still being felt.
A heavily-bearded Cousins poses for a photo with a member of the public earlier this year