Ben Cousins relishing facing Judd at MCG


Ben Cousins says he could not have planned a better way to resume his AFL career than squaring off against fellow former West Coast skipper Chris Judd at a packed MCG.

The return of the 30-year-old Brownlow Medallist - 18 months after he last played - and the clash with his former premiership captain has created enormous public interest in Thursday night's AFL season opener.

A crowd of up to 90,000 is forecast for the Carlton-Richmond encounter, threatening the home and away attendance record between the two sides of 85,673, set 29 years ago.

Ticket sales are well ahead of those for the grand final rematch between Geelong and Hawthorn the following night, which is expected to draw closer to 65,000.

And prize Richmond recruit Cousins was licking his lips at the prospect of opposing Judd for the first time.

"I remember 12 months ago that I was sitting down at a mate's place, obviously it was Judd's first game (with the Blues), I was preparing to watch Richmond-Carlton, it's a great rivalry," Cousins said on Monday.

"To sit back and watch him play his first game, I had a lot of interest in the game, it was fantastic.

"Twelve months later to be getting ready to play against the skip in the same game, I couldn't have asked for it to work out any better."

Cousins said the pair, who are friends, had not spoken about their upcoming duel.

"I haven't spoken to him for a week-and-a-half, let the dust settle, I'll see him out there Thursday night," he told Nova FM.

"But I'm really looking forward to playing against him, probably not quite as much as I'd look forward to playing with him.

"But they're the great challenges in footy, to come up against Carlton and Judd in particular is exciting."

Cousins, who performed solidly in two pre-season matches with the Tigers, said his pre-season had been ideal, particularly given the late start he made after being drafted in December.

"I've done the work that I like to do, not just physically but from a mental sense to know that I'm right, so come Thursday night I'll be ready to go," he said.

Even before his comeback match, Cousins was relishing being part of football again.

The recovering drug addict likened the time spent in limbo between being sacked by the Eagles in late 2007 and drafted by Richmond last December to being "stuck in a cell".

"I'm really enjoying just rocking up to footy and having something to do every day, I'm back on auto-pilot, places to be, just a bit of structure," he said.

"People look back and think it was 12 months of holiday, but especially when you're dealing with what I'm dealing with you've actually got to second guess every decision you make."

Carlton coach Brett Ratten said several of the Blues' coaching staff flew to the Gold Coast to watch the Tigers' last practice match against Brisbane and said Cousins showed signs of his old class.

But he said while the fans and media were focussed mainly on Judd and Cousins, the respective sides had plenty else to worry about.

"Richmond have actually got another 20-odd players that we'll focus on, so Ben will be a part of it," he said.

"But I tell you the impact Matthew Richardson has on the Richmond football team is pretty big, Brown's performance last week was very good, Nathan Brown was in sparkling touch, he looked like he was back to career-best form up in Brisbane.

"And I suppose the way Richmond hold back and their backmen don't push out of that back 50 too much, we'll have to have a look at that too, how we can score.

"And that doesn't involve Ben, but we'll keep an eye on him as well."

Ratten guaranteed star forward Brendan Fevola would play, despite bruising his heel in the Blues' last practice match and said midfielder Heath Scotland was likely to play despite a limited pre-season.

Carlton have four players in contention to make their AFL debuts, with Mitch Robinson, Sam Jacobs, Aaron Joseph and Jeff Garlett all under consideration.

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