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The stellar career of Australian rules footballer player Ben Cousins (who retired from the game in 2010) was marred by controversy. Among the most notorious incidents was a one-year ban from the Australian Football League (AFL) competition in 2007 for his off-field behaviour, including recreational drug use.

'Prior to October 2007, I had never seen nor heard of Ben Cousins, never having followed football, or any sport for that matter,' says artist Megan Roodenrys, who painted his portrait for the 2009 Archibald Prize. 'We were watching TV one day and saw the news footage of Ben being escorted by police from his car in broad daylight and commented on how it would feel to have your personal struggles dragged out in front of the public. And also, how so many ordinary people have found themselves in Ben’s position, while their struggle remains private. I have always had a great deal of respect for people who are trying to overcome addiction issues.’

Roodenrys wanted to document a difficult time of self-examination. 'I wanted to represent a strong and purposeful man in a vulnerable, uncertain state, all his nerves exposed.’

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