He’s considered one of the greatest players ever to wear the West Coast jersey and one of the best midfielders of his era.
But when most of us hear the name Ben Cousins, it’s not his 270 games, his premiership win or his Brownlow Medal that forms front of mind.
It’s words like ‘troubled’, like ‘addiction’ and ‘disgraced’; the kind that have anchored scores of headlines in the eight years since his retirement.
Just last week, the 40-year-old father of two faced court over a slew of drug, stalking and burglary charges, most of which related to breaching a restraining order taken out by his former partner, Maylea Tinecheff.
Armadale Magistrates Court heard allegations that, on one occasion, Cousins climbed into Tinecheff’s car clutching a screwdriver and said: “I can’t wait to use it”.
He later allegedly threatened: “I’m going to kill you. I’m going to take your life and your freedom and the things you love the most”.
Cousins, who currently has no fixed address, also allegedly said he was going to bury her “where she would survive for a couple of days” then he would “bring the kids to play, so she would hear them but would not be able to get to them”.
After he was denied bail on Tuesday, many expressed their compassion toward the clearly unwell man. There were even opinions penned about how he “deserves our sympathy”, rather than our ridicule. But for the rest, he’s crossed a threshold beyond the tragic fallen star trope, because as radio host and author Meshel Laurie noted, he is no longer the biggest victim of his downfall.
“Sorry,” Laurie wrote on Instagram. “But I reckon the lady he’s been stalking and threatening to kill deserves our sympathy first.”
Ben Cousins’ downfall.
Cousins’ difficulties with drug addiction became public well before he hung up his boots in 2010. In a highly reported 2006 incident, he fled a Perth roadside breathtest on foot, abandoning his then-girlfriend Samantha Druce and his Mercedes-Benz in the middle lane of the Canning Highway.
In his efforts to elude police, he even plunged into the nearby Swan River. He was ultimately arrested and charged over the incident, which cost him $900 plus court costs as well captaincy of the Eagles.
He played on for the club until March 20, 2007, when he was suspended indefinitely after failing to show up to three training sessions. The following day he checked into a rehabilitation program at Summit Center in Malibu, California.
His father, Bryan, released a statement to Channel 10 at the time: “Ben’s problem relates to substance abuse and he faces a great challenge… Ben, you are not alone with this challenge. Your family, your friends, your fans and your footy club want you to overcome this issue and win in the same manner in which you have done throughout your whole career”.
Cousins spent just two weeks in the $50,000 facility, before declaring himself in recovery and returning home.
And it wasn’t long before his name again leeched beyond the sports pages.
The night of his friend’s death.
After retired West Coast player, Chris Mainwaring, died of a drug overdose in the early hours of October 1, 2007, it emerged his friend and former teammate, Cousins, was among the last people to see him alive.
In his memoir, My Life Story, Cousins revealed he had been planning a cocaine binge with the Channel 7 presenter that evening. In the book, Cousins wrote that he’d spoken to Mainwaring earlier that day and that he sounded depressed and told him he’d been ‘struggling’. The then-sober Cousins went to visit him, and arranged for a night of drug-taking.
But after Cousins left briefly to attend his standing Narcotics Anonymous meeting, he changed his mind. He returned to Mainwaring's home with his then girlfriend and a takeaway dinner. "It would have been easy for us to have a night together," he wrote. "All the ingredients were there. But I wanted to be there for the right reasons."
Cousins told a coroner that by the time he left shortly after 10pm, Mainwaring was in good spirits. A few hours later, the father of two was dead, having overdosed on cocaine.
Retirement, arrests and legal troubles.
In 2008, Cousins was picked up by Richmond for a final two-year-chapter in his tumultuous playing career. And through it all his addiction managed to avoid detection by the AFL, officially speaking; he never once failed a mandatory drug test.
But once he retired in September 2010, he found himself without the structure of his playing days, without the support of a club, and so his addiction spiralled.
Over the next five years he was in and out of court over a catalogue of drug-related incidents, some of which landed him in handcuffs. On March 27, 2012, he was arrested at Western Australia's Esperance Airport with methylamphetamine secreted in his anus and convicted of possession. The following month, another arrest and charge, this time for possession of cannabis and a smoking implement.
In 2015, he was taken into custody three times in a single fortnight: for leading Perth police on a low-speed car chase, then for trespassing on an SAS base, and lastly for driving erratically in a bizarre incident outside a Sikh temple in Canning Vale.
The following year he was hospitalised after trying to direct traffic on the Canning Highway; witnesses described him as "really lost, confused and making no sense at all", according to WAToday. In a separate incident he crashed his car head-on into a truck while high on meth.
But it was what occurred behind closed doors that was most alarming.
Four years after the 2013 breakdown of his relationship with Tinecheff, Cousins was sentenced to 12 months in Western Australia's Acacia prison for stalking her and repeatedly breaching a violence restraining order.
He'd hounded Tinecheff with 2000 text messages and phone calls in just two months in early 2017, and in the previous November had attempted to contact her 503 times, including 103 times in a single day. He'd also approached her physically on several occasions at her home, church and her children's school.
He was released in January 2018. But last week found himself back in the docks, after being arrested at a Canning Vale house with 13 grams of methylamphetamine hidden in his anus. He was charged with 16 offences including aggravated burglary, aggravated stalking and possessing a prohibited drug with intent to sell or supply.
But despite his assurances to the court that he's simply a victim of the legal system, that he poses no danger to anyone, that a “strength" of his character is his "ability to not act out in violence", Magistrate Andrew Maughan disagreed and refused bail.
He will remain behind bars until October 30.