Willie Rioli is prepared to go to extreme lengths to resuscitate his AFL career, as West Coast conceded they will have to take a hard line stance.
Willie Rioli is prepared to go to extreme lengths to resuscitate his AFL career, as West Coast conceded they will have to take a hard line stance.

Rioli’s extreme measure to save AFL career

Willie Rioli is prepared to submit to regular drug tests to prove he can break the cycle of cannabis use in a bid to resuscitate his AFL career.

Rioli is awaiting a West Coast decision on his future, with the Eagles letting the dust settle after he escaped conviction after a sniffer dog detected cannabis on him in Darwin Airport.

The Eagles football department are aware their board might take the issue out of their hands given his continued issues, which come after a two-year ASADA ban.

The AFL might also issue him with an illicit drugs strike, with the AFLPA and league to work through that issue in coming weeks.

But even before Rioli's latest drug infraction he was prepared to accept a greater level of rigour around his behaviour.

That could include weekly drug tests to ensure he has overcome his drug problem, which West Coast conceded this week.

 

Footballer Willie Rioli leaves Darwin Local Court after allegedly being caught with cannabis while flying from Darwin to the Tiwi Islands. Picture: Che Chorley
Footballer Willie Rioli leaves Darwin Local Court after allegedly being caught with cannabis while flying from Darwin to the Tiwi Islands. Picture: Che Chorley

Rioli would also be told he needs to cut ties with certain friends who do not help his AFL career and make better lifestyle choices.

The Eagles and Rioli would need to work through regular drug tests with the AFL players association.

But at the age of only 25, there are a long line of AFL clubs who would be prepared to swoop in if the Eagles do make the decision to sack him after multiple infractions.

Clubs with strong Indigenous programs have shown they are prepared to take chances on players like Sydney Stack, with Tyson Stengle being considered in the mid-season draft despite recent drink-driving and cocaine offences.

Former Fremantle coach Ross Lyon said on Wednesday Rioli should definitely be handed another chance despite his recent transgression given his levels of talent and the likelihood of turning his life around.

When Ben Cousins returned to Richmond he was re-registered by the AFL Commission, which ruled he needed regular drug tests including urine testing up to three times a week and hair tests four times a year.

West Coast football manager Craig Vozzo speaks to the media about wayward West Coast player Willie Rioli.
West Coast football manager Craig Vozzo speaks to the media about wayward West Coast player Willie Rioli.

Richmond coach Terry Wallace later revealed Cousins left a meeting to decide his future for an "extended bathroom break", but for two seasons he barely put a foot wrong.

Wallace said after that meeting the club knew it had no responsibility to Cousins but believed it could help him.

"Did we have any responsibility to take that on? Probably the answer to that is no," Wallace said.

"But we did sit back in a board meeting and say 'if this young man, we decide to not give him an opportunity of getting his footy together, which means getting his life together, as a board how would we sit if in 8-10 weeks, all of a sudden we woke up one morning and there was a news bulletin and something horrific had happened'.

Rioli had made huge inroads in the past six months to work back to full fitness ahead of what was supposed to be a June 20 return to West Coast training.

The lightning small forward had put together a purple patch of six weeks before accepting a provisional suspension for his tampering ban, including a 93-ranking point, nine score-involvement final against Essendon.

His clash against Adelaide in Round 1 saw him peel off a 21-possession, 113-ranking point, seven-tackle, 10-score involvement clash but his career was put on hold four weeks later.

Originally published as Rioli's extreme measure to save AFL career