“I don’t know whether anyone has put more into making the club great than what Ben Cousins did as a player.”
That’s the view of Sam Butler, the only member of West Coast’s 2006 premiership team still playing at the club, in an effusive defence of former captain Cousins.
Butler said Cousins, who is in Hakea Prison facing charges of breaching a violence restraining order, aggravated stalking and possession of 8g of methamphetamine, was anything but a disruptive influence and played a strong role in shaping his life as a professional footballer after he was drafted in 2003.
“Ben Cousins was the captain of the club for a reason. He was the best on-field leader I’ve ever played under,” Butler told Pre Game.
“We want to support all of our past players, especially greats of the club who put so much in.
“The hardest part is that you feel a little bit useless.”
Butler said being given a guard of honour last year — after West Coast’s round 11 win over Essendon — from his 2006 premiership teammates as they celebrated their 10-year reunion was unusual but satisfying.
But he said continued claims, particularly from Eastern States commentators, that their flag was tainted because of the drugs furore was wearing thin.
“It didn’t bother me for a long time, but it probably has started to a little bit lately because I was in it and I know what it was like on the inside,” Butler said.
“It doesn’t sit well with me because I feel like I know more than them and it’s very hard to swallow.
“We know what we did to get there and I think it was fair and just and reasonable.
“There are certain guys at the forefront of people’s discussions when they’re talking about the topic, but many of them for me were great role models and leaders.
“At the time, none of the things people talk about were a factor in my mind and I certainly didn’t see any of it.”