Tiger chief says club is in dark over Cousins cash offer

RICHMOND president Gary March says the Tigers have not had any talks about a sponsorship offer that is conditional on the club reviving the AFL career of Ben Cousins.

It was reported yesterday that wealthy Melbourne restaurateur Frank Dimattina, who played for the club in the 1960s, had committed to giving Richmond up to $300,000 if it recruited the 30-year-old in tomorrow’s pre-season draft.

But March said he and the club’s directors "haven’t heard anything" about the apparent offer to bankroll the addition of Cousins, the 2005 Brownlow medallist, to its playing list.

"We haven’t spoken to anyone from the Dimattinas," he said yesterday.

Opposition from sponsors about the recruitment of Cousins, a recovering drug addict, has been cited as a factor in why at least two other AFL clubs, St Kilda and the Brisbane Lions, abandoned plans to draft him.

March would not say whether the opposite scenario — a sponsor lobbying for the recruitment of a specific player — could influence the club’s recruitment strategy.

"We’re talking all hypotheticals with this whole situation," he said. "As I said on Friday we’re waiting for the outcome of the decision from the (AFL) commission, so we’ve really got nothing more to say until they make their decision."

The AFL Commission will decide today whether to allow Richmond to shift tram accident victim Graham Polak onto its rookie list for next season, even though he does not fall within the list’s eligibility criteria.

Cousins’ potential recruitment hinges on Richmond receiving approval, which would allow the club to select two players, instead of one, in the pre-season draft.

"We’ve already publicly stated that we’re taking a young player with our first pick," March said.

"That decision’s already been made — I’m not sure how many more times we need to say it."

The AFL last week wrote to all clubs to gauge their views on Richmond’s request, which the Tigers justified on the basis Polak was "still undertaking extensive rehabilitation after suffering an acquired brain injury". Fremantle and Collingwood have expressed opposition to the request.

■ If the first-round pre-season cup match between West Coast and Collingwood in Cape Town is scrapped because of the global financial crisis, the game will be played in Melbourne or Perth on February 7.

The AFL is speaking to several companies to muster financial support to save the Cape Town match after sponsor NAB said at the weekend that it had abandoned plans to host hospitality packages.