Banned Eagle reveals 'challenges' ahead of return

1 month ago 11
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West Coast forward Willie Rioli will make his long-awaited return to the game this weekend following a two-year layoff due to tampering with a drug sample.

Rioli earlier this year was officially handed a backdated two-year ban by the AFL, which he accepted amid a battle to avoid a potential four-year suspension.

Having already served 18 months on the sidelines at the time of his backdated ban, Rioli's end date was August 20, and he will now take to the field this weekend when the Eagles take on the Lions in a must-win clash to keep their finals hopes alive.

The 26-year-old, who was part of the Eagles' Grand Final-winning squad in 2018, spoke via the club's website today, in which he revealed his journey back to the AFL took a toll mentally.

"It has been a long journey back, but I'm grateful for it," Rioli said. "It was mentally challenging; luckily enough I had great family support back home that helped pass the time. Waiting for the outcome was the hardest part, not knowing what my future was looking like.

Willie Rioli jogs laps during a West Coast Eagles AFL training session at Mineral Resources Park on June 21, 2021 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images) (Getty)

"It was really important to have the support of the club, lucky enough to have Peter Staples (integrity officer), Chance Bateman, who was at the club at the time, and Jamie Bennell, who came up to Darwin. They kept my dream alive of playing AFL football again.

"(So grateful) to everyone around the club who stuck by me and believed in me. I had a bit of mixed emotions about it.

"I've learned to take things as they come and just excited about the next chapter.

"I get nervous every game, but this will be more of a relief. It will probably be surreal to me. It will mean a lot, not only to me, but to my family who has been through the hard times."

With one round to go before the finals series, the Eagles must beat Brisbane on Saturday and hope either GWS or Essendon loser their respective matches to make the finals.

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