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Empathy for Cousins
Posted by Tony on 7th July 2010 at 11:20:49
My first clear memories of then VFL now AFL football are of successive Essendon home games 29 May–5 June 1954 as one of the crowd stamping on the wooden-floored twin grandstands either side of the Napier Street goals as John Coleman bagged 14 against Fitzroy then, after he had kicked another five against North Melbourne, rendered to stunned silence when he did his knee, a career ending injury.

Full forwards have been compared to Coleman ever since and have long competed for a medal named in his honour, but none have quite made that grade. Not Peter Hudson, who ranks with Polly Farmer as the greatest player I've seen, nor Tony Lockett. They played the position very differently. Not my mate Geoff Blethyn nor Adelaide's Tony Modra who both shared a lot of the style but never quite had Coleman's presence. But 56 years later we might have finally found one who can be validly compared.

Sitting high in the Ponsford Stand of encircling concrete I witnessed a sudden but never unpredictable change after Canadian rugby convert Mike Pike had soared high straight in front to take the Swans to a five and a half goal lead over the Tigers who had been playing so badly six weeks earlier that a betting agency had paid out prematurely to those who had backed them to finish last. But Sydney immediately switched back to the tactic which brought them much success under Roos of paying no attention to actively winning while they could accountably avoid losing. Minutes into the final quarter it became obvious, at least to me, that they would need one more goal if they were to withstand the Richmond revival. That penchant to turn so many games into close ones has kept this very two-eyed supporter following the Swans since I shifted back from Sydney eleven years ago already.

While at least a couple of Jack Riewoldt's five goals will stay etched in my memory, it was his searching kick to the fat side to find groggy fellow 21 year old Andrew Collins which put the Tigers within two points and lifted the hopes of their long-suffering legions towards the inevitability.

Enter Ben Cousins who is as passionate about footy as the worst fan and has well documented problems managing his own neurochemistry. After Cousins's reasons for being at Richmond evapourated in the first few weeks of last season, he has clearly been putting back in a way that makes this class of social reality possible at all levels. We should not be surprised that the only way Cousins could find down from Sunday's high left him a lot more dangerously comatose than Collins had ever threatened to be.

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