Banned star set for return
West Coast forward Willie Rioli is in the frame to make his return from AFL purgatory this week and play his first game since 2019.
The 26-year old’s two-year doping ban will end on Friday, making him eligible to return in either the AFL or WAFL next weekend.
After Sunday’s derby loss to Fremantle, which sent the Eagles tumbling out of the top eight, making a win against the Brisbane Lions this week a must, West Coast coach Adam Simpson said Rioli could play.
“Willie, he will be a conversation early in the week,” Simpson said.
“He’s done nothing but impress us and the players the way he’s gone about it. We’ll have to weight it all up and see how we go. He’s training well and he’s had a really good block of fitness, so we’ll see how we go.”
Rioli has been allowed to train since June having been retained by the Eagles despite being banned for two years for tampering with a drug sample.
Willie Rioli has been training with the Eagles. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
He could be one of several changes for the Eagles after Simpson conceded the 2018 premiers faced a season without a finals appearance for the first time since 2014.
“That‘s us. You deserve everything you get in this game,” he said.
“It‘s a great leveller.
“We‘re still alive, I think, so we’ve got to find a way to get around the boys and have a swing.
“But we’re where we are because of games like today.”
Simpson has promised an attack on this year’s national draft to ensure a quick bounce back for the Eagles in 2022.
“We know where we’re at. We know what’s in front of us and what we need to do,” he said after the loss.
“We’re working hard behind the scenes on what the next phase looks like, and it’s not on the basis of the last five weeks or today.
“There’s a lot of planning in place. We know what we need to do going forward.
“We need to dig a bit deeper about what’s going on with our momentum shifts. But the list profile will change, like it has a few years ago.
“We’ve got some good kids coming through, we’ve given games to some young talent, and we need to hit the draft. That hasn’t changed.”
Eagles coach Adam Simpson says the club knows what it needs to do going forward. Picture: Daniel Carson/AFL Photos via Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
West Coast has the third oldest list in the competition behind St Kilda and Geelong.
Its reserves sides copped a 71-point hiding on Sunday also. Three AFL-listed rookies, including Mark Hutchings, played in that game, along with nine players on the senior list.
Of them, only Jake Waterman (52 games), Josh Rotham (32) and Jarrod Brander (21) have played 20 games or more.
Shannon Hurn and Liam Duggan through injury were really the only players missing from their best 22 that played the Dockers.
For West Coast to play beyond next week, they need to beat the Lions and either Greater Western Sydney needs to lose to Carlton or the Bombers need to go down to Collingwood.
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