West Coast Eagles decide against sacking Willie Rioli after airport drug bust
The AFL career of Willie Rioli is still alive after West Coast decided against sacking the premiership forward.
Rioli’s future was in limbo after he was caught with 24.23g of cannabis during a screening at Darwin Airport on April 23.
He failed to inform the Eagles about the incident, with the club only finding out when contacted by a journalist just days before the court hearing.
Still playing: The AFL career of Willie Rioli is still alive after West Coast decided against sacking the premiership forward. Pictured during an Eagles training session in Perth in August 2019
The 25-year-old pleaded guilty to possession in a Darwin court, but he escaped conviction and was placed on a 12-month good behaviour bond.
Rioli’s two-year ban for twice substituting urine during an anti-doping test and testing positive to cannabis on game day is due to expire on August 20, and he is free to resume training from June 20.
Cannabis abuse is rife in Rioli’s place of birth in the Tiwi Islands and former Eagles coach John Worsfold led the calls for West Coast to give the talented forward another chance.
West Coast’s general manager of football Craig Vozzo recently said it appears Rioli has a problem with cannabis.
Bust: Rioli’s future was in limbo after he was caught with 24.23g at Darwin Airport on April 23, and failed to inform the Eagles about the incident. He pleaded guilty to possession in a Darwin court, but he escaped conviction and was placed on a 12-month good behaviour bond
The Eagles will attempt to set up an environment where Rioli can break the habit and thrive both on and off the field.
Several West Coast players and officials have spoken about losing trust in Rioli.
But Eagles coach Adam Simpson says he is willing to trust Rioli again.
“We’re a pretty empathetic industry, people make mistakes. It’s just to what level,” Simpson said recently.
“He’s devastated, He’s very remorseful and he understands the position he’s put himself in.”
Rioli burst on the scene in 2018, booting 28 goals in his debut season to play a key role in the club’s premiership campaign.
The 175cm forward took his game to even greater heights the following year, but he was banned on the eve of the club’s semi-final against Geelong after his urine substitution charge was officially announced.
It’s understood Rioli poured a sports drink into the tube instead of providing a urine sample and it was later revealed he had tampered with his sample on two separate tests.