Former Wallabies star Matt Giteau has led a raft of criticism of Channel 7’s interview with Ben Cousins on Sunday night.
In his first interview with the media in 10 years, the fallen AFL star opened up about his downward spiral and life behind bars in ‘Ben Cousins: Coming Clean’.
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But what was dubbed as a ‘tell-all’ interview left many viewers feeling flat.
Scores of fans criticised the interview for failing to reveal any new information about Cousins’ plight, while many including Giteau felt it was inappropriate given Cousins is still clearly struggling.
The Brownlow Medal winner and six-time All Australian played 238 games for West Coast before he was axed in 2007 after he was arrested on drug-related charges.
He was banned by the AFL for 12 months for bringing the game into disrepute soon after he was dumped by the Eagles.
He went on to play 32 games in two years at Richmond before retiring at the age of 32 at the end of the 2010 season.
But Cousins’ life spun out of control in retirement, his issues with drug dependency resulting in him spending time in jail.
“Channel 7 couldn’t care less about Ben Cousins in my opinion,” Giteau tweeted on Sunday night after watching the interview. “Just wanted the story.”
“I felt he was taken advantage of badly and the whole thing was just sad. Say what you want of him but I really hope he gets the help he desperately needs.”
Channel 7 couldn’t care less about Ben Cousins in my opinion.. Just wanted the story.. I felt he was taken advantage of badly & the whole thing was just sad. Say what you want of him but I really hope he gets the help he desperately needs#BenCousins
— Matt Giteau 🇦🇺 (@giteau_rugby) March 29, 2020
And Giteau wasn’t alone in expressing similar concerns.
The Ben Cousins interview is one of the worst I have ever seen. There was a way to do this in a respectful way, and this misses it completely .
— MGH (@MichelleGHunder) March 29, 2020
Can’t think any good came from that. Was my childhood hero but it’s just sad to see how he is now. Not ready to talk about his Mental Health/Drug Problems let alone fight them. Fingers crossed he surrounds himself with the right people & gets on track, one day 🙏❤️#BenCousins
— Adam McGrath (@AdamMcGrath89) March 29, 2020
Very concerned by the #bencousins interview. He’s really unwell and susceptible to being exploited. I really hope he can find recovery. It is possible.
— Emily (@emilybwebb) March 29, 2020
Absolutely nothing. Insulting to viewers.
— Niall Seewang (@N_Seewang) March 29, 2020
Wasn’t expecting to learn much from this #cousins show but that was fluff in its purest form. Soft reporting or did the terms of the interview dictate Basil couldn’t press harder?
— Niall Seewang (@N_Seewang) March 29, 2020
That was very awkward viewing and it felt exploitative. Presumably Channel 7 paid #BenCousins for that “interview “... the money would have been far better spent donated to genuine drug rehabilitation programs for Ben.
— John Gardner (@JohnGardner72) March 29, 2020
I agree! Ch 7 should be ashamed. No duty of care was taken for a man that’s clearly struggling. So sad 😞
— Mardi (@MardStarz) March 29, 2020
#BenCousins is still clearly not well & needs support. I really think Channel 7 should have more duty of care than airing this.
— Megan Barrow (@MeganBarrow) March 29, 2020
This is a terrible interview. There is absolutely nothing of substance. He is cooked and being taken advantage of. It should have been left alone. Channel 7 should be ashamed of airing this IMHO #BenCousins
— Danielle Butler (@danibutler2484) March 29, 2020
Basil Zempilas defends Ben Cousins interview
Channel 7’s Basil Zemplias defended his interview with Cousins on Sunday.
“Many people say, ‘Why tell the Ben Cousins story?’ I think it is important because there are so many everyday Australians dealing with an addiction with ice, either them or a family member,” Zempilas said on Weekend Sunrise.
“If it can happen to him … someone with the world at his feet, there is every chance it can happen to someone they know as well.
“Once it gets into someone it is very difficult for them to get it out of their system. Ben Cousins wants to win this fight … but it is not an easy battle to win.”
Discussing the interview on Thursday, entertainment reporter Peter Ford said Cousins was paid but insisted the money would not go to Cousins straight away.
“There was payment involved, but the payment has gone to Ben’s lawyer and it will be drip fed to him for his living expenses moving forward,” Ford said.
“So the last thing you want to do when you’re dealing with an addict is give them a whole bunch of cash. That is not what is happening.”
Cousins apologises for role in West Coast drug culture
During the interview, Cousins expressed remorse for his role in creating the drug culture that dogged West Coast for years after he was sensationally sacked by the club.
“Oh, I am sorry, I am remorseful,” Cousins said of his negative influence on the Western Australian powerhouse.
“And the fallout from that has been pretty significant on the club.
“So, it has taken a while since that time for the club to find itself back in a position like it is today.”
Cousins watched West Coast's 2018 grand final win over Collingwood in jail, saying it was a win that meant a lot to him as he struggled to come to terms with how his last few years with the Eagles played out.
“(You don't know) how much I walk around with some of that stuff... other people probably never know,” he said.
“There was just another side to that (grand final) win and what it represented to me.
“(That) this just had done a full circle, you know? And although it's a long time and a lot had happened... you got to live with that.
“It doesn't change what took place at the time but it was almost like a bit of relief.”