FORMER Richmond coach Terry Wallace has lifted the lid on the club's first meeting and decision to recruit fallen Brownlow medallist Ben Cousins.
After he had been sacked by West Coast at the end of 2007 and given a 12-month AFL ban for the 2008 season, Cousins had been overlooked by 15 clubs before Richmond offered the chance for a lifeline.
Cousins was ushered into Melbourne privately to meet with Wallace, Richmond head of football Craig Cameron and the club's psychologist at a non-descript house in Blackburn belonging to Cameron's parents.
Wallace said the meeting was 'strange' and was concerned by Cousins' erratic movements after the midfielder took an extended bathroom break.
"Five minutes pass, 10 minutes pass, 20 minutes pass, 25, 30 minutes pass and he hadn't come out of the loo. I was sitting there wondering what the heck was going on," Wallace said.
"Clearly what it said to me was that this was a young man that was in a very bad way."
Wallace left the meeting still unsure of whether Cousins was worth the risk.
"Did we have any responsibility to take that on? Probably the answer to that is no," Wallace said.
"But we did sit back in a board meeting and say 'if this young man, we decide to not give him an opportunity of getting his footy together, which means getting his life together, as a board how would we sit if in 8-10 weeks, all of a sudden we woke up one morning and there was a news bulletin and something horrific had happened'.
"(We) believed he was in that stage where that could've possibly been the case."
Richmond ultimately recruited Cousins with the final pick in the 2009 pre-season draft before he played 32 games across 2009 and 2010.
Wallace said there was never strong concern that Cousins' off-field behaviour would expand to the rest of the playing group.
"Ben was always a bit of a loner," he said.
"We felt that if there were ever any times that he wasn't going to toe the party line, he'd be doing that more likely by himself than he would with a group anyway.
"We knew from the AFL it (drug testing) was going to be so stringent that virtually he was getting tested three or four times a week at that stage.
"He was very much a cat on a hot tin roof in social scenarios that didn't suit him. He was on edge a lot of the time.
"That on edge situation to me only comes from two things. Either you're taking some form of substance or you are affected and long-term affected of some form of substance."