14/04/2024
Willie Rioli

Willie Rioli sets foot in Mineral Resources Part for the first time in two years (Source: @westcoasteagles Twitter)

Captain Luke Shuey speaks to the media as Willie Rioli is welcomed back to the club after almost two years in the Tiwi Islands.

Willie Rioli makes his return to the club today after two years in the Tiwi Islands awaiting and serving his suspension for drug tampering back in 2019.

The premiership player will train with his teammates again for their first time since September 2019 after being found guilty for two instances of urine substitution, testing positive for marijuana and his recent drug charge in the Northern Territory.

Captain Luke Shuey addressed the media this morning after his WAFL outing against Subiaco and discussed the official return of his teammate.

At the game on Saturday, Willie Rioli was seen among his teammates and shared a special moment with his skipper.

“It was good to see him there,” said Shuey.

“He loves the footy club and, like a lot of the indigenous boys in the Tiwi Islands and up north, they just love footy, it doesn’t matter which level they’re playing at.

“For Willie to be back around football is one thing, but to be with us who really care about him and are excited to see him back – it was great to see him down there.”

https://twitter.com/SweeneyPaddy9/status/1406156072142794759?s=20

While Willie Rioli is still prohibited from playing football at AFL or WAFL level for a further two months, but is able to train with the playing group from this week onwards. The soonest he can take the field again is in round 23 against Brisbane at the GABBA, also putting him in the frame for finals.

However, Shuey believes slipping back into the club’s training programs and regimes will be no issue for the goal sneak due to his commitment in the Tiwi Islands.

“He’s been training hard,” he said.

“The whole two years he was out, he was committed to coming back ready to go whenever that was.

“He’s trained reasonably hard up north and obviously, you can’t replicate game intensity or a training session with your teammates, but he’s worked his backside off and I think he’s in a good position to get going today.”

Shuey and his teammates are ready to welcome him back with open arms and happy to see him return, ready to focus on the future with bigger priorities and focuses than the past in mind.

“What’s happened is in the past,” said Shuey.

“What important is what he does from here on. His actions and his behaviours and his attitude are all that matters in that regard.”

“From this moment on, what’s happened in the past we’ve dealt with, we’ve spoken to him and he understands the reality of the whole thing and so do we.

“We’ve been able to move on, have open discussions and now park it and get on with business and do our best to help him grow as a young man and a young father, and secondly to that hopefully get him back to playing some football for us.

“We’re pretty happy with giving Willie a chance to come back and have another crack at doing what he loves.”

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Rioli will be surrounded with support from the club, including the players, including his ‘great mate’ Liam Ryan and the staff.

“We care about the club and we care about Willie,” he said.

“He’s still one of us and it’s exciting to have him back.”

Off-field discretions aside, it is very difficult to forget how remarkable Willie Rioli is a player and the energy he brings to the side. He would be a huge inclusion for Adam Simpson’s men come round 23.

“No one can do the stuff he does, so if we can get him back it’s a huge bonus for us,” said Shuey.

“They’re special players and they can win games for you off their own boot.”

However, round 23 is still weeks away. The Eagles’ selectors will have this week at the forefront of their minds before anything else, with Shuey looking likely to trade his coaching polo for his number 13 guernsey.

The skipper helped the Eagles WAFL side to their first victory of the season against a formidable Subiaco side. On limited minutes, he posted 22 disposals, four tackles, and four inside 50s but most importantly, finished the match unscathed.

“It was exciting to play footy again,” he said.

“[It] doesn’t matter what level you play at or who you represent, the competitive side, the will to win and playing with your mates is what you really love about footy.

“To experience that again, was awesome.”

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