Injury cans star Eagle's return from doping ban

1 month ago 9
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West Coast premiership forward Willie Rioli is likely on the verge of watching back-to-back seasons pass by without playing an AFL game, after he was ruled out of this Saturday's clash with Brisbane.

The Eagles had locked in Rioli to face the Lions in their must-win match at The Gabba, but he's since been scratched from the game due to hamstring tightness.

Coach Adam Simpson confirmed that key pair Josh Kennedy [finger] and Jeremy McGovern [hip] would also miss the game, joining gun midfielder Tim Kelly [knee] and defender Brad Sheppard [concussion] on the sideline.

Rioli, who's completed his two-year ban for twice tampering with a urine sample, had been set to play his first AFL game since West Coast's 2019 elimination final against Essendon.

The 26-year-old will now only have a chance of making his long-awaited AFL comeback this season if the out-of-form, undermanned Eagles spring an upset on the Lions and other results play out in their favour.

If West Coast fail to steal a top-eight berth in the final round of the regular season, the club will weigh up whether Rioli should make his return in the last two rounds of the WAFL season.

But irrespective of whether Rioli returns to the field in the WAFL this season, Simpson sympathised with him following his hamstring setback.

West Coast's Willie Rioli. (Getty)

"It's disappointing, but he pulled up a bit tight a couple of days ago and unfortunately we can't play him, as much as we all want to," Simpson told reporters.

"It's been a really good process for him and the club the last eight weeks. I'm really proud of what he's done and he's got complete buy-in from our players and staff.

"He's back. His suspension is over, he just won't be playing this week. He's done everything he can, he just couldn't get to the line."

Simpson said internal discussions had been had regarding whether Rioli deserved to regain his place in West Coast's 22 during the pointy end of the season.

The 2018 West Coast premiership coach said no one had been in opposition to Rioli returning this week, provided he was fit and among the best 22 players available.

"We were going to play him," Simpson said.

"Everyone we spoke to was pretty keen to get him in."

The Eagles' Willie Rioli. (Getty)

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