Foreigners visiting Perth on the weekend could have been forgiven for wondering: who is Ben Cousins and is he a serial killer or terrorist with links to Al Q’aeda – or a footballer who had bolted from the shadow of booze bus?

The West Australian gave over its first five pages to Cousins, topping this off with an editorial that bayed for the Brownlow Medallist’s blood. Cousins, who has a good turn of the foot on the footy field, showed he’s capable of some fast dashes through suburbia after dark if he cites a booze bus ahead.

He and long time mate, Nathan Hewitt, abandoned Cousins’ Mercedes 300m from the booze bus. The police, briefly caught flat-footed, made a dash after the bolting duo but only apprehended Hewitt. Cousins made his own way home, sometime after midnight Friday. And after breakfast, with lawyer in tow, Cousins fronted the police and a tow yard to collect his swish wagon and began facing the music from Perth shock jocks, West Coast Eagles officials, and, on Saturday, from The West.

Not to be outdone The Sunday Times‘ front page carried a picture of Cousins, just like Saturday’s West Australian, and two full pages on the footballer’s midnight runner and coming woes with Eagles officials, plus an editorial.

This is the second year in a row that his public antics have attracted close police scrutiny. And he’s copped crushing shirt-fronts from all quarters, including The West with it five page coverage and editorial that bayed for his blood. Not even Brian Burke, who lost several hundred millions taxpayers’ dollars, and was twice sentenced to imprisonment could match that.

“West Coast have a massive cultural problem and it is only getting worse,” The West railed. ”The clear message from many at the club is that they consider themselves so powerful in the WA community as to be above the law – and Ben Cousins’ latest flirtation with a booze bus reinforces the message.

Look at the record. Cousins dumped his car 300m from a random breath test unit.

Last year senior police criticised him and Michael Gardiner for their reluctance to co-operate with a major investigation.

West Coast is a successful, powerful club full of successful, powerful people but it is time for those people to ask themselves if they are part of this community or above it.

But none in the baying media have claimed Cousins is a fool. Instead the focus has been on Cousins being a so-called “role model.” An interesting point that no one has highlighted is the fact that his runner may become a role model for a different kind; motorists who abandon their cars to make a dash whenever confronted by booze buses.

The irony is that Cousins could face a fine as little as $50 for a minor traffic offence for evading police. But when you put that up against a possible hefty fine and loss of driver’s licence, it makes the risk of dashing away from the police a tempting prospect, as Cousins has shown.

Peter Fray

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