The rehabilitation of Ben Cousins


So, Ben Cousins is to be a Tiger now.

I bet you thought that I couldn’t make a link between a footballer and the Resident Judge of Port Phillip, but of course I can.  The original Resident Judge John Walpole Willis was in Melbourne too early to witness the ‘invention’ of Australian Rules football by Tom Wills in 1858.  Ironically Wills ended up suiciding in Heidelberg, which was where Judge Willis had lived some 37 years earlier.  There was another Thomas Wills who lived in the Heidelberg vicinity, down by the Yarra River, while Judge Willis was in Port Phillip, so it’s all rather confusing.

There was speculation that Ben Cousins would be drafted by St Kilda, my favourite team, but it did not eventuate.  I was pleased. To be honest, St Kilda has a lurid enough history of bad boys and there is no need to perpetuate it with Ben Cousins who is described as a ‘recovering drug addict’.  For me, the final straw was when he shaved his head and waxed all his body hair to avoid a drug test in November this year.  This is not the act of a recovered drug addict who desperately wants to play.  It smacked of arrogance and a misplaced sense of invincibility.

So, Richmond has taken him on instead.  Fair enough: their decision.  But I was interested in the front page article in today’s Age that examined the public rehabilitation process that has been set into train, largely driven by his manager Ricky Nixon.  Mention was made of ex-Richmond player and acclaimed coach Kevin Sheedy‘s influence, and more interestingly for me, that of football commentator Gerard Healy.

[Club President Gary] March says Kevin Sheedy’s role in bringing Cousins to Tigerland has been exaggerated at the Richmond end, but that the influence of another Cousins’ supporter Brownlow medallist and media commentator Gerard Healy, has been understated.  Healy is a mentor to Cousins and was one of the five people Nixon had engaged to protect and advise him in the event that he was drafted by the Saints.

Healy’s major role was not simply to lobby Richmond and the league, but to turn the tide of public opinion through his media outlets, especially 3 AW’s ‘Sports Tonight’ which became command centre of a shameless “Give Ben a Fair Go” campaign.  (Age, December 17 2008)

Ah, that’s right, ‘engage’ (i.e. pay) the media to smooth the path.  And when Gerard Healy gets behind a young player next season, shall we assume that he has been ‘engaged’ to promote him, too?  He’s a radio announcer: should he, like fellow radio announcers Alan Jones and John Laws be required to disclose the players that he has been ‘engaged’ to support?

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