Former AFL star Ben Cousins has been taken to hospital by police after an incident in Como, WA. Courtesy: 7 News
FALLEN AFL star Ben Cousins has reportedly been taken to hospital after police were called to an incident on a busy West Australian highway.
Seven News Perth reported the former West Coast and Richmond player, who has a history of drug abuse, was in the middle of Canning Highway in Como directing traffic.
He was described as being “incoherent”, while one witness said he attempted to jump on the back of someone’s motorcycle, almost causing the driver to lose control.
“We were standing right there and one metre in front of us a red motorbike stopped and he ripped him off,” a female witness was quoted as saying by Yahoo News. “He [the motorcyclist] jumped back on his bike and took off.
“He [Cousins] was trying to hitchhike. The bike went down and he ran into the bushes here. He was fried.”
Itiita Iosia recalled the fear she felt when she saw Cousins running towards her.
“He came down here and ran down this path here and, honestly, I started s****ing myself because I thought it was a crazy person,” Yahoo News reported Ms Iosia as saying.
Cousins reportedly spent several hours with window washers near the Canning Bridge before going onto the tarmac himself. Craig Stevens said he was “off on his own planet”.
“We could not understand him so we were like, ‘We can’t understand you, mate … you’re causing us bad business,’” Stevens said.
“He was really lost, confused, making no sense at all. Seven or eight cop cars turned up left, right and centre. They even had the helicopter above us.”
“He looked like a bit of a mess. His jeans were riding really low and he was running and sweating heaps,” another witness told Seven News.
The network reported police chased Cousins into nearby bushland, then took him to Fiona Stanley Hospital for a check-up.
Ben Cousins has been taken to hospital after an incident with police in Canning Bridge this afternoon. https://t.co/b1wHPBVMLw
— The West Australian (@westaustralian) June 26, 2016
Cousins was a star of West Coast’s 2006 premiership-winning team, but his career and life descended into a downward spiral due to his problems with substance abuse.
Former Richmond teammate Jake King spoke recently on an episode of Open Mike that will be aired on Tuesday, and said the 37-year-old was “still doing it tough”.
“I speak to him every few weeks, I saw him a couple of weeks ago,” King said. “I flew to Perth to make sure he is going all right.
“I guess he is still doing it a little bit tough. It has been a tough road for Ben and that is a situation where it doesn’t go away tomorrow.”
King said he would continue to be there for Cousins, treating him like “family”.
“All we can do is be there and make sure if he needs some help, that you are a physical presence [for him],” he said. “It is not just a phone call. It is actually making sure he is physically OK. It is making sure that Bryan and Steph [Cousins’ parents] are OK, that his kids are going OK.
“It is not just, ‘Yeah he played at the club, we looked after him then.’ My mindset is when they are a mate, I treat them like family and I will do everything I can, and so will everyone else close to Ben, to make sure he is OK.”
A gun midfielder in his prime, Cousins captained the Eagles and was a six-time All Australian. He was named the AFL Rising Star in 1996 and won the Brownlow Medal in 2005.
But things went south after the Perth club’s grand final win a decade ago. He was suspended by the club in early 2007 and spent time in an American rehab facility, then in October that year he was arrested for drug possession and banned from playing in the AFL for 12 months.
Richmond offered the fallen star a lifeline when they selected him in the pre-season draft late in 2008. He played 32 games for the Tigers, the last of which was in 2010.
Cousins’ coach at Richmond was Terry Wallace, who this month revealed the strange first meeting he had with the erratic star before deciding to sign him. He described how Cousins went missing for more than half an hour after saying he was taking a bathroom break.
“Five minutes pass, 10 minutes pass, 20 minutes pass, 25, 30 minutes pass and he hadn’t come out of the loo. I was sitting there wondering what the heck was going on,” Wallace said.
“Clearly what it said to me was that this was a young man that was in a very bad way.”
No other club wanted to recruit Cousins once his ban was lifted, but Richmond felt obliged to give him the chance to get his life back on track. Wallace said the club had to weigh up how it would feel if it didn’t pick him up, only to wake up one day and find out he’d fallen victim to tragedy.
“If we decided not to give him the opportunity to get his footy together, which meant getting his life together, how would we feel if in eight or ten weeks we woke up one morning and all of a sudden there was a news bulletin and something horrific had happened,” Wallace said.
“We believe he was in that stage where that possibly could have been the case.
“We spoke to the experts at the time and they told us it was a much better spot for him to be in the environment of a football club.
“Perhaps the rigours of what footy meant to him might be able to turn him back and get him back on the straight and narrow.
“Better people were informing us, more medical brains than what we were, and suggesting that the best spot for him was around a footy club.
“We went through a raft of reasons why and why not we would pick him around our board table at one stage and obviously the empathy side was one of those … certainly it was a part of the jigsaw puzzle.”
West Coast Eagles chief executive Trevor Nisbett said earlier this month he was still upset the club wasn’t able to help Cousins turn his life around, and fears for his safety every day.
“I guess the disappointing thing is we weren’t able to salvage Ben out of the wreck,” Nisbett told Channel Nine’s The Footy Show.
“I worry (about Cousins) every day. We would like him to be healthy and well and getting on with his life like a 36 or 37-year-old should be doing.
“But we are not sure what space he is in at the moment.”
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