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Is there learning in Leadership happening? Do you know of other similar stories; is this still happening?

-June 25, 2016 8:30pm premium_iconSubscriber only

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    Shane Crawford will never forget the night he saw Ben Cousins after West Coast’s 2006 premiership

“WE’VE got a massive problem here.”

I was sitting in the West Coast change rooms late in 2003 after a training session with the Australian International Rules team when Eagle Chad Fletcher offered that opinion without prompting.

We were the only ones there and he was looking at the names on the lockers.

His confession caught me completely unaware.

At no stage did he mention “drugs”, but I had no doubt that’s what he was referring to.

There had been some speculation about a few West Coast players and their off-field behaviour, but it was a shock to hear Chad’s take.

Almost 13 years on, as the Eagles prepare to host a 2006 premiership reunion before Thursday night’s clash with Essendon, his words still sit uncomfortably with me.


You can’t help but wonder what might have been if those concerns had been addressed earlier. *Everyhwere, sport, commerce, public service, armed forces, religion, everywhere people know something isn’t right and do nothing about it. This is lack of Leadership -not bad people just ill-equipped.

It is beyond doubt there was a seriousillicit drugs problem among the players. None of us are sure how many were affected — a number clearly weren’t — but the most disturbing thing is that a handful are still dealing with issues.

To me, Ben Cousins’ story is one of football’s tragedies and it makes me so sad that he and a few team mates are still battling the after-effects a decade after they held up the AFL premiership cup.

If it meant all of the players were happy and healthy, worries about Cousins everyday.

My former Hawthorn teammate Daniel Chick has struggled with life after football. So, too, has Daniel Kerr, and it is a matter of record that Fletcher was lucky to survive after collapsing in LasVegas on a 2006 end-of-season trip.

I don’t bring this topic up to be sensationalist. Far from it. I do it because that premiership group is coming together this week, though we expect a couple of players to be absent.

*This is at the premiership level – the level where the need to example behaviour is so necessary

The gap between Fletcher telling me about the club’s problems and the Eagles winning the flag was three years.

When he told me, I couldn’t have known what was to come. But in hindsight, it might have been a cry for help.

Certainly by the 2006 flag, there were more than a few whispers about the Eagles.

I’ll never forget the night of the WestCoast premiership, because I went to Crown casino with a few Hawks team mates to congratulate our mate “Chicky”.

I just wanted to have a beer with Daniel and to say well done. We were proud of him.

It was about 7pm when we arrived — only a few hours after the game — and the first thing I noticed was the state Cousins was in.

This wasn’t the young man who became the golden child of West Australian football from the time he pulled on a WestCoast jumper. This wasn’t the good-looking, clean-cut guy I had so often played on, and admired, for the way he approached his footy, for his explosive ability and his passion for the game.

He wasn’t the person I had seen on the field.

I didn’t know why he was behaving insuch a weird way, but it was so strange that I brought it up with “Chicky” and he just rolled his eyes. No further words wererequired.

West Coast officials have spoken about how they became aware of part of the problem much later than they would have liked. *Like no-one could see of experience the behaviour?

The Eagles at least took measures to change the entire culture of the club when they found out the true extent of the problems.(Rex’s comments – like a bolt out of the blue??) 

And the club today is vastly different from what it used to be.

But, sadly, a handful of players are still doing it tough.

I’m not naive enough to suggest that drugs are still not an issue in football, as they are for society.(Rex’s comments – is it drugs of the footy culture that allows them in and allows them to flourish, to survive??)

But the positive that has come out of the West Coast situation from a decade ago is that it was very much a line in the sand moment for the game.

Clubs are now better resourced, better equipped and better aware of the issues confronting players, and I truly believe that if the Ben Cousins of 2006 was playing football in 2016, then he would walk out of the game a happier and healthier soul.

It is only 10 years ago, but in terms of player welfare, it was light years away.

We can only hope the players who are still troubled by what happened can repair their lives and their relationship with the football club.

And we can only hope that this week’s reunion will be part of that healing ¬process for some of them.

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