AFL addresses Ben Cousins question everyone wants answered

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The AFL has addressed the elephant in the room concerning Ben Cousins and his place among the sport’s Hall of Fame.

Cousins, a former premiership winner and Brownlow Medalist, is yet to be inducted to the honour list despite his stellar career achievements on the field.

However, the 45-year-old’s name has for years carried a different meaning for those outside the footy world.

Cousins’ career ended controversially after ongoing struggles with drug issues attracted significant public attention. He was sacked by the West Coast Eagles in 2007 after he was arrested for drug possession and handed a 12-month suspension by the AFL.

While he would spend two more years with Richmond playing top-level footy, the next decade of his life was spent making headlines for all the wrong reasons, including a spate of court appearances and time behind bars.

But in recent years, Cousins has made a significant personal recovery, locking down multiple media roles with Channel 7 and Mix94.5 in Perth, and is now set to appear on the TV show “Dancing With the Stars.”

The AFL has acknowledged Cousins’ improved circumstances, with AFL commission chair Richard Goyder hinting at a potential future induction as public support gathers.

In January, AFL premiership star turned media personality Kane Cornes publicly backed Cousins being inducted to the prestigious list, stating that not everyone within the Hall of Fame has a clean history.

“It’s time. There are others in the Hall of Fame who have had checkered history off the field and it’s time,” Cornes said on SEN Breakfast.

However, the decision on Cousins’ induction, like those of other controversial players in the past, appears to be delayed to allow time for the consideration of his full rehabilitation and contributions.

“I won’t talk about Hall of Fame. I will say it’s a joy to see Ben in the shape he’s in right now, and I’ve seen a fair bit of him in the west,” Goyder said.

“I think (Cousins’ recovery story) is fantastic … what I would say with Hall of Fame, and it’s almost my precursor to our committee discussions each year, is it’s not who’s in, it’s who’s not in.

“It’s an incredibly high bar to be a Hall of Famer in the AFL, and it’s even higher to be a Legend, so we’ll look at those things in due course.”

His comments came after the announcement former Hawthorn forward Jason Dunstall would be upgraded to Legend status in 2024.

A powerhouse at the front of the pack, Dunstall kicked over 100 goals in 1988, 89, 92, 93, 94 and 96 before retiring in 1998.

“As a four-time premiership player for Hawthorn, four-time club best and fairest, three-time Coleman Medallist and 12-time leading goalkicker for the Hawks, he is a Legend by any measure in our sport,” Goyder said.

“It is extraordinary to think he kicked double figures in 16 separate games and his 17 goals against Richmond at Waverley in 1992 is the equal second-highest tally in a VFL/AFL game in history.

“Forwards have always held a special appeal for footy fans through the generations and he sits easily alongside the great goalkickers of the past like Coventry, Pratt and Coleman, and names across the game like Robertson, Naylor and Farmer.”

Dunstall expressed gratitude upon being informed of his elevation to Legend status, which is the highest honour one can achieve in the sport.

“It’s an incredible privilege. I feel very humbled, almost to the point of embarrassment,” Dunstall said.

“When you consider there’s just a tick over 30 Legends in the game, it’s the highest honour you can imagine.

“I feel incredibly grateful to the AFL. It’s been a massive part of my life and to sit amongst names that are synonymous with the game now is incredibly humbling.”


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