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Cousins aims for "bigger and better"  November 8, 2017 2:16 PM

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After missing the second half of the 2017 season following a shoulder reconstruction, young Hawk James Cousins is set on becoming “bigger and better” as 2018 approaches. 

Selected with Pick 46 in the 2016 Rookie Draft, Cousins quickly impressed at VFL level, becoming the first Hawk from his draft class to achieve an AFL debut. He managed three consecutive games between rounds 10-12, averaging 13 disposals and 4.3 tackles. 

The 19-year-old was hoping to implement his learnings upon return to VFL, but instead had his season cruelled by a shoulder dislocation just three weeks later. 

“I was very lucky to get a taste of senior footy early and learn a few things,” recalls Cousins. 

“I felt like when I went back to Box Hill I’d be able to put those things into place, but unfortunately I dislocated my shoulder and needed a full reconstruction. 

“Obviously it was very disappointing, especially not being able to play some finals footy with the Box Hill guys, but I’ll grow from it, and the plan is to come back bigger and better next year.”

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Following a stringent off-season program, the midfielder says things are progressing slowly but surely. 

“The body’s going alright so far. 

“I had a fair bit to do in terms of training over the off-season, but it’s nice to come back with boys and start to ramp things up. 

“In regards to my recovery, the strength and conditioning guys are happy to take it slow and make sure my shoulder is 100 per cent before I get back into full contact.

“Hopefully after Christmas I’ll be back to completing 100 per cent of the program. 

Cousins was certainly not alone in the back half of 2017, with several Hawks missing large chunks of the season through injury. 

Youngsters Kieran Lovell and Mitchell Lewis also underwent shoulder surgery, while senior players including James Frawley, Cyril Rioli and Grant Birchall spent significant stints on the sidelines.

While injury can have its mental toll, Cousins believes the advice and support of his teammates who have had similar experiences helped to lessen the burden.   

“A few of the guys really helped me with what to expect following my surgery,” he said.

“Guys like Chip Frawley, Kaiden Brand and Kieran Lovell, having done shoulders in the past they were able to give me some advice on how to deal with it going forward.

“They definitely helped me with the mental side of things.”

Cousins and his fellow 1-4 year teammates will continue training together until the 20th of November, when they will be joined by their senior teammates as the club starts to ramp up its preparations for the 2018 season.