AAP AFL

AFL Eagles hurting for ‘gentle soul’ Rioli

By AAP Newswire

West Coast are hurting for "gentle soul" Willie Rioli after crashing out of the AFL finals without their suspended star forward.

Just 48 hours after learning of Rioli's bombshell provisional ban for allegedly substituting a urine anti-doping sample, the Eagles' premiership defence came grinding to a halt with a 13.10 (88) to 10.8 (68) semi-final loss to Geelong at the MCG.

Rioli could face four years out of the game if an investigation finds he substituted another substance for his own urine during an August 20 out-of-competition drug test.

The big pre-game question was what effect the talented and highly popular Rioli's suspension would have on his teammates.

West Coast looked noticeably flat in the early going, although they bounced back to snatch the lead after halftime before being run over late.

"They're human. We really care about Willie - we still do," coach Adam Simpson said.

"We addressed it on Wednesday night. We looked pretty tight and we looked pretty galvanised. But we're hurting for him.

"We're really worried about his mental health and making sure he's got his family and support around him.

"He's a gentle soul, a lovely man. He's got a partner with a child and another one on the way. We just throw our arms around him at the moment."

A devastated Rioli left the team hotel in Melbourne after he was informed of the breach of the ASADA code and flew to Darwin.

He will be represented by David Grace QC in what AFL chief Gillon McLachlan expects to be a lengthy investigation.

"We'll work through it in the coming weeks," Simpson said.

"It's just been a bit of a shock. It just happened so quick and now we've got to deal with it as a club and Willie's got to deal with it himself."

Rioli posted a message on his Facebook page on Friday apologising for the controversy, while also vowing to learn from the distressing experience.

Eagles star Luke Shuey said Rioli's teammates had been unable to contact him after he had his phone confiscated.

"I think we're looking forward to seeing him and wrapping our arms around him and giving him a hug," Shuey told AAP.

"But he's probably got a long road ahead of him."