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Revivalist meeting as Cousins faces his demons

THE Block in Redfern has seen plenty of things in its time, but nothing quite like this. When Ben Cousins, Anthony Mundine and Sonny Bill Williams, clad in shimmering white shirts, appeared apparition-like in the sunlight, it looked for all the world like a revivalist meeting reports AAP on 6th February 2008.

And it many ways it was, at least from Cousins' point of view.

The fallen AFL star was here to take another step in reclaiming his life. As he put it - to be saved from himself.

With the support of the others (Mundine frequently put a brotherly arm around his shoulder) and Olympian Nova Peris, Cousins walked down Sydney's notorious Eveleigh St to face his demons.

The supporting cast numbered around 100 - reporters, photographers, camera crews - and some bemused residents who stood on their doorsteps in this run-down inner-city suburb wondering what all the fuss was.

"It's The Man. Hey, Choc," one of them called out.

"See you in rehab, Ben," said another, and was quickly shooshed for his lack of respect.

Somehow the entire cast and crew then managed to jam themselves up a narrow staircase and into Mundine's gym, strewn with weights and smelling of sweat, to hear what Cousins and Mundine had to say.

"For Ben to come here ... shows the courage that he has, his manhood, and that he wants to get better, that he will strive to get better and eventually will be the man that he wants to be," said Mundine, a long-time campaigner against drugs and alcohol in Aboriginal communities.

To illustrate his point, Mundine read out a quotation from slain black American activist Malcolm X:

"Children have a lesson adults should learn. It's not to be ashamed of failing, but to get up and try again."

Cousins' body language betrayed his nerves. He shifted uneasily in his seat as the time came for him to speak.

But once he got the microphone in his hands he started to relax.

Publicly silent for so long, the words now started to gush out of him.

"I am not ashamed or embarrassed to say I have had a drugs problem because for a lot of people they don't choose to do it, in a lot of ways it chooses them," he said.

"I deep down don't think I really had a choice ... the very things that make me a great footballer are some of the things that lead me to fall into those sorts of traps."

He also spoke of the pain and ruination the addiction had wreaked on his life.

"I am someone who has lost my livelihood, the thing that I enjoy doing most and probably more so than that, I have lost a lot of the people who are close to me - family and friends."

The four of them posed for pictures inside the ring where Mundine is training for his next world title defence.

More brotherly embraces followed.

And then Cousins was down the stairs, into the back of a waiting black Mercedes, and was gone.