We may never know why Ben Cousins parked
his car and bolted from a booze bus nine days ago. Plenty can be assumed, such
as that most people don’t run away from the police, leaving a large clue as to
your identity (your car) behind, without good reason.

While we can only speculate on the reasons
behind it, Cousins is still being punished for the incident. He’s lost the
captaincy, details of his past misdeeds and questionable friendships are being
dragged back into the public spotlight, and his reputation has taken another

As followers of rugby league know, when a
player makes a mistake it’s not only his burden to bear. The club has a huge
role to play, and in this case, with no clear evidence of wrong-doing, the
Eagles have been able to fall in behind their man.

Despite Cousins running away from a booze
bus while the police were calling for him to stop, Eagles coach John Worsfold,
presumably with a straight face, still managed to call him “courageous”.

“I feel for Ben that he has had to stand
down from the [captaincy] because I know how much he does cherish it,” he said.
“But he also has had to weigh up what the position means and it’s a courageous
decision for him to make.”

The media managers have done their job
there. While nobody is underestimating the heat Cousins is taking behind closed
doors over the incident, Worsfold’s reaction is a great example of how sporting
clubs paste over the public cracks caused by player misbehaviour, thereby
protecting the goodwill of sponsors, and the reputation of its most marketable
assets, the players.

As Fox Sports reported
this morning, Eagles chairman Dalton Gooding admitted: “It’s done short-term
damage but I am sure as the season starts that damage will dissipate quickly.”

You can bet there’s nobody keener to hear
that first siren than Ben Cousins.