AFL superstar Ben Cousins has retired, pulling the pin on his illustrious career – one that was derailed by drug addiction but has now ended on his own terms.
Cousins, 32, has been the Richmond Tigers’ best player over the last month and had certainly done enough to justify another season.
Richmond and Cousins stress it was his decision to retire at the end of this season, ending months of speculation about his playing future.
“The tough part about making this decision is I believe as a footy club are heading in the right direction,” he said at Tuesday’s announcement.
“For my own selfish reasons, I’d love to hang on for another year for grim death and try to enjoy some of the spoils that are headed our way.
“But I believe it is the right time, I’m happy and content with what I’ve achieved in footy and by walking away from the game now, I can walk away in a positive light.”
Cousins initially told the club last week he was leaning towards retirement, but said the Tigers advised him to think about it for a few more days.
They met again on Monday and the final call was made.
“Not everyone is reserved the right to go out on their own terms and I’ve had to endure a fair bit over the last few years,” he said.
“I’ve worked too hard over the last few years to (not) go out on my own terms, this way, it’s a real positive, not just for me but the footy club, for my family … and all the people who are part of my support network.”
After losing their first nine games under new coach Damien Hardwick, several pundits predicted Richmond would be lucky to win a single match in 2010 after a massive cleanout of their list.
But they have confounded expectations by winning six matches, with the promise of much better times ahead with young guns like Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin and Jack Riewoldt – all of whom benefited from Cousins’ on-field tutelage.
Cousins’ AFL career was in three parts – the glittering years at West Coast that featured a Brownlow Medal and a premiership, followed by the rapid decline to a one-year suspension as his drug addiction took hold.
Then came two years of rehabilitation at Richmond, which ensured he could retire with his head held high.
“I am forever indebted to the footy club for the opportunity to play football again,” Cousins said of Richmond.
“I understand there were associated risks with picking me up.
“I look back at the time when I was drafted and it was a pivotal time in my life.”
Cousins also spoke fondly of his time at West Coast and thanked fans at the two clubs for their unflinching support.
“I consider myself really lucky that the average football punter has looked kindly upon me and it’s made my journey that little bit more special,” he said.