'He's got an issue': Club breaks silence on Willie Rioli drug charges

Pictured here, troubled West Coast star Willie Rioli faces the possibility of being axed.
West Coast have admitted that Willie Rioli could be sacked if found guilty of his latest drug allegations. Pic: Getty

West Coast say there's a real possibility they will sack Willie Rioli following the AFL premiership forward's latest drug-related controversy.

Rioli will appear before a Darwin court on Wednesday charged with possession of a dangerous drug.

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Police will allege they found 25 grams of cannabis in Rioli's pants during a drug screening at Darwin airport on April 23.

Rioli was issued with a notice to appear in Darwin Local Court on possessing a schedule 2 dangerous drug less than a trafficable quantity.

The 25-year-old has been suspended from the AFL since September 12, 2019 - a day before West Coast's semi-final loss to Geelong.

Rioli was found guilty of substituting his urine during two separate anti-doping drug tests. He also tested positive to a metabolite of cannabis during a different drug test.

His AFL anti-doping tribunal case was finally heard in March and Rioli escaped with a backdated two-year ban instead of a possible four-year suspension.

Rioli had been given permission to train with West Coast from June 20 and resume playing on August 20.

But his career is now hanging by a thread, with Eagles football operations manager Craig Vozzo addressing the latest development on Tuesday.

Vozzo said the club is supporting Rioli "at this stage", while they investigate all the facts and wait for the result of his court appearance.

Rioli didn't let the Eagles know about his court case until Monday night when he called the club's integrity officer Peter Staples.

When asked whether the club could sack Rioli, Vozzo replied: "It's definitely in that category, but we need to deal with the facts and the outcome from a legal point of view.

"There's a risk of (his career being over). It's a balancing act between the feeling of extreme disappointment and anger versus a sadness.

"It's a very fine line that he's run with these allegations, for sure."

West Coast player Willie Rioli is seen here celebrating during an AFL match.
Willie Rioli will face court on Wednesday charged with possession a dangerous drug. Pic: Getty

Vozzo said the club now "questions the degree in which you can trust" Rioli.

"He has made some really poor and disappointing decisions through 2019 and this," Vozzo said.

"On the face of it, it's another poor decision and that does test trust personally and as a club."

Rioli 'gutted' over latest development

When asked whether Rioli has a drug problem, Vozzo said: "Potentially as far as the cannabis side of things, there's an issue.

"I'm not going to shy away from that, and the fact that we can't really deal with him day-to-day from a care point of view (while he's been away) is a challenge.

"There's a bigger issue at play as far as the Tiwi Islands and potential problems with this sort of stuff. It's long standing in some sense, but from our point of view it's 2019 onwards."

Vozzo said Rioli was feeling shame and embarrassment over the incident.

"He's a mess. He's gutted and he's not in a good space," Vozzo said.

"He hasn't told many people. I think he probably feels a sense of shame and is probably working through that emotion and telling people who are close to him.

"I think he's been bottling it up and hoping it might perhaps go away, and it hasn't.

"He's a good young man deep down and he's got an issue that he needs help with.

"I feel sad as well as angry."

Rioli has sought out his own legal representation for Wednesday's court case, with the Eagles not flying anyone to Darwin.

with Yahoo Sport staff

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