The last fifteen years have seen a number of remarkable stories in footy. However, with every good side, there must be a bad side.
Although we like to focus on the good, the bad can sometimes override it due to the severity of occurrences. And with that, we have a look at the top five biggest falls from grace in the past fifteen years.
5. Jason Akermanis
It was impossible to miss Jason Akermanis on a football field; bleach-blonde hair and the best kick of a football on his opposite foot in the league for a long time meant that the flamboyant midfielder earned his spot in the juggernaut Brisbane Lions team for three premierships. Akermanis was a key component, earning All-Australian selection four times and winning the 2001 Brownlow Medal.
While you could run out of superlatives to describe Akermanis on a football field, his major problem off the field was that he just didn’t know when to shut up. His comments about his coach at Brisbane, Leigh Matthews, got him dropped to the reserves, and eventually unanimously voted out of the club.
He was traded to the Western Bulldogs, where he played three years and where comments outside of football again ended his career at the club. Off the field, Akermanis took aim at his coaches, revealed a teammate’s injuries the week before a Grand Final, made disparaging comments about homosexual players in the AFL and was forced to defend himself against accusations of homophobia, threatened to switch codes to rugby union if the Brisbane Lions signed Wayne Carey, and questioned the necessity of AFL legend Jim Stynes being awarded a state funeral after his death in 2012. Akermanis now plays in the Tasmanian State League.
4. Ricky Nixon
Rated by The Age newspaper as the fourth most influential football person of the past decade, Nixon rose to the top of the player management world in 1994. He boasted a stable of AFL stars, including Wayne Carey and Ben Cousins, and the all-time great Gary Ablett Sr. Nixon is a key supporter of the Irish experiment, and made moves to expand the search for talented athletes outside the country. The high-profile sports manager could, at his peak, have shared the limelight with the very athletes he represented.
However,I t all came crashing to a screaming halt for Nixon when he was implicated in an inappropriate relationship with a 17-year-old girl. Kim Duthie, who at that point had been accused of controversial behaviour towards members of the St Kilda Football Club, released images of Nixon sprawled on a hotel bed in his underpants, and with a substance which appeared to be cocaine.
Nixon admitted, after much consternation, to what he called “inappropriate dealings” with Duthie (she called it an affair), and was subsequently de-registered by the AFL Players’ Association Accreditation Board for a period of two years. His star clients left his stable and he reportedly has no plans to return to athlete management.
3. Brendan Fevola
If anyone has ever personified the term “flawed genius”, it is Brendan Fevola, and if there was a footballing MENSA society, Fevola would have been the head of it. He could do almost anything on the football field, and Carlton fans loved him for it. A three-time All-Australian and remarkably, Carlton’s leading goalkicker from 2003 to 2009, Fevola twice won the league’s Coleman Medal for most goals kicked in a season. The eccentric Fevola won games off his own boot for Carlton with frightening regularity, and his high-flying antics were a shining light during a difficult period in the Carlton Football Club’s darkest times.
Unfortunately for Carlton fans, Fevola – a country larrikin in most people’s eyes – had about as many off-field indiscretions as he did on-field awards. Most famously, he wrestled his then-captain Chris Judd at the 2009 Brownlow night, slurring references to Steven Seagal. He also put a bartender in a headlock during an International Rules series in Ireland, urinated on a window outside a Melbourne nightclub and wore a sex toy in public during Mad Monday celebrations.
He was traded to Brisbane, where his problems with gambling were aired, and after being arrested for creating a public nuisance on New Years Day 2011, Brisbane terminated his contract.
2. Wayne Carey
The King; quite simply the greatest player to ever play the game in the eyes of most. A North Melbourne club champion four times, a seven-time All-Australian (including four captaincies), a two-time premiership winner and a two-time Leigh Matthews Trophy winner. Carey captained the champion North team for eight years through the team’s dominant period in the 90s, and is in the AFL Team of the Century at centre-half-forward.
Carey tore North Melbourne apart when he had an extra-marital affair with teammate Anthony Stevens’ wife in 2002. He resigned from the club in disgrace, only to be signed by Adelaide in 2003. After his retirement at the end of 2004, Carey was the subject of numerous investigations into anti-social behaviour in the United States, including one incident in which he had to be restrained in a police car.
In 2007, Carey “glassed” his model girlfriend Kate Neilson at a restaurant in Miami, Florida, which saw his commentary deals with Australian media terminated. In 2008, he admitted he was a long-time abuser of cocaine and alcohol. Carey is currently not allowed into the United States as a result of his criminal history there.
1. Ben Cousins
Ben Cousins had the AFL world and the state of Western Australia at his feet. The world was his oyster; he had it all. The clichés go on, and continue for some time. The 17-year-old footballing prodigy, courted by three AFL clubs before he was out of high school, is rated by football journalist Mike Sheahan as one of the fifty best players in history. Cousins won a Brownlow medal, was a six-time All-Australian selection, a four-time West Coast best and fairest winner, a goal of the year recipient, a West Coast premiership captain, a Leigh Matthews Medal recipient and was part of the most feared midfield quartet in modern times, terrorizing opposition midfields with partners-in-crime Dean Cox, Chris Judd and Daniel Kerr.
The first sign of trouble was Cousins’ panicked fleeing from a booze bus in February of 2006. He resigned the West Coast captaincy shortly thereafter, but the team still won the 2006 Grand Final. Early 2007 saw Cousins suspended indefinitely for missing training sessions, and the first accusations of substance abuse reared their heads.
He underwent four weeks of rehab in California, and made his long awaited return in July of 2007, gathering 38 touches against Sydney. In October of that year, police in Perth searched Cousins’ car. He was charged with drug possession, and within two months had been sacked by West Coast and de-registered by the AFL.
He spent a year in the wilderness before being offered a lifeline by Richmond in the 2009 Pre-Season Draft. Cousins played 32 games for Richmond before retiring at the end of the 2010 AFL season. Since retiring, Cousins has been hospitalized several times for drug-related incidents, including an involuntary admission to a psychiatric facility for drug-induced psychosis.