The ball is bounced to start the second half of the preliminary final and the Tigers trail 50-29.
Surely it is time we – the public – put our egos to one side and leave Ben Cousins alone. The confessed drug addict is in the process of trying to rebuild his life. But, in the meantime, there has been plenty of speculation regarding possible heavy drinking and a relapse.
But nothing has been confirmed, sources are conveniently hidden in these matters, and Richmond is pleased with his progress: on and off-field.
That’s good enough for me, but not for some.
On Melbourne’s Gold FM on Tuesday, player manager Ricky Olarenshaw said: “I’m not one for gossip and rumours but I’ve been hearing murmurings for probably the last month about Ben Cousins. And I got some things confirmed to me over the weekend, and it was talked about publicly on the airwaves yesterday, so I’m not the first one to talk about it, but I believe that Ben Cousins may have lost his way again.”
Not one for gossip and rumours?
Yep, you guessed it – Olarenshaw did not disclose a source.
If you are going to spread scuttlebutt about someone, you better have some evidence handy, and put a name to it – especially when the “rumour” is this vicious.
Olarenshaw didn’t, and he should accept the consequences because Cousins – make that any AFL player – deserves better.
The fact is anyone – and I mean, anyone – can start a rumour, no matter how unsubstantiated it is. That’s why they’re called rumours.
Has Cousins got a black mark next to his name for the rest of his life? Surely not. Remember, he never tested positive under the AFL’s illicit drugs policy, which was introduced in 2005.
As part of his return to the AFL stage, he is tested three times a week. And he is, by all reports, abiding to those conditions. If he wasn’t, the league would suspend him.
So why has the public fascination continued when he is abiding by the rules?
We mark AFL players hard. Wayne Carey should not return to television, in the opinion of many, due to his past indiscretions. Cousins himself was criticised by plenty for flipping the ‘bird’ at a Channel Ten camera in the Richmond changerooms before a match last season.
In today’s climate, it was pretty harmless stuff.
But because it is Ben Cousins, the public need for a story clicks into overdrive, overtaking, sadly, basic ethics and a need for proof when allegations are put forward.
Olarenshaw’s “news” is just the latest episode, driven, I guess, by Cousins’ recent visits to hospital.
There was also speculation, in the pre-season, that Richmond had warned Cousins about his alleged heavy drinking. The club has denied it ever took place. That again, is good enough, given the conditions that have been imposed on Cousins.
The negative rumour mill would, without doubt, be weighing Cousins down. It’s sad that some sections of society need to feed off the past errors of others to make a name for themselves.
We have all made errors. Cousins was not the first to, and he won’t be last. But, at the very least, he deserves basic respect from the public.
He is doing his best to right the wrongs of the past. Let the man breathe.