Junior Rioli under fire over potential move to West Coast rivals

·Sports Reporter
·5-min read
West Coast's Junior Rioli is seen celebrating a goal during an AFL match.
West Coast's Junior Rioli has been heavily criticised over his meeting with Port Adelaide in free agency. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

West Coast forward Junior Rioli has been criticised by former Eagles player Xavier Ellis, after the 27-year-old took a meeting with Port Adelaide over a potential free agency deal.

Rioli emerged as one of not just West Coast, but the entire AFL's most electrifying small forwards, but his career took a serious hit after he was banned for two years for an attempt to substitute his urine with a sports drink for a scheduled drug test.

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The Eagles stood by Rioli throughout the sanction and he returned to play 13 games for the club this year, however his season was also impacted a by a personal tragedy with the death of his father.

Tipped to have been a premiership contender in 2022, the Eagles instead won just two matches as the team was troubled by a Covid-19 outbreak to begin the season, couple with a raft of long-term injuries to key players.

Club legend Josh Kennedy retired at the end of the season as well, and with the Eagles' forward line already set for major change, Ellis felt Rioli had not respected the club's loyalty to him throughout his suspension.

After meeting with Port Adelaide's Shaun Burgoyne on Monday, Rioli said any potential move was nothing against the Eagles but simply an opportunity for him to get the best deal for his family going forward.

Ellis though said Rioli owed it to West Coast to 'stick it out' when discussing the potential move on Triple M radio.

“I’ll tell you what would make you comfortable – getting paid for two years when you’re banned for two years, that would make you pretty comfortable,” Ellis said.

“Not having to pay for your QC fees of your cases that you’ve had the last two years, to have them waived. That would make me feel a bit comfortable.

“Rioli, I think you owe West Coast. You might get a better deal at Port, but what West Coast’s done for you over the last three years – you’ve played in two victories in the last three years. I think he owes West Coast something."

Port Adelaide have interest in Rioli as a potential replacement for the retiring Robbie Gray, as the Power look to bounce back from a mediocre campaign of their own in 2022.

Rioli says any potential deal with Port Adelaide wouldn't be a reflection on his appreciation for the Eagles and what they had done for him over the years.

“It was just to go check out the coaches and meet the guys really. No decision yet, just have a look at the environment,” he said when quizzed by media at Perth Airport.

“I just want to play footy. I just rock up wherever.

“If I do leave, I’ve got no hate on the club. I’ve got no beef. I learnt it’s just an industry at the end of the day."

Junior Rioli eyeing off move to Port Adelaide in AFL free agency

Rioli, who is out of contract, met with the Power on Monday and underwent a medical assessment.

The 27-year-old wants a deal that can give him long-term security after a difficult past 18 months.

Port Adelaide have reportedly offered Rioli a lucrative multi-year contract.

"Hopefully (get to Port Adelaide), we'll see how it goes," Rioli told Nine News.

"I'll see if my manager can look after me and work out a good thing.

"I don't understand all of that, I'm not into the politics side of footy.

"If I could set myself up for the rest of my life, that's all I want to do ... I've been through too much in the last 18 months so I just want to make the most of being in the industry I am now."

Junior Rioli and Liam Ryan are pictured celebrating a West Coast Eagles goal.
Junior Rioli has been a crucial part of West Coast's forward line, but has been considering a long-term free agency deal with Port Adelaide. (Photo by Will Russell/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Rioli served a two-year ban for twice tampering with a urine sample and made a successful return this season, kicking 14.3 from 13 games.

He had to deal with family tragedy in July when his father, Willie Rioli Sr, died from a heart attack aged 50.

Rioli Sr had been helping the talented small forward plan his next career move.

"A lot of this has been weighed up since before I came back to footy," Rioli said.

"It's kind of been planned with me and my dad, but it's been a bit slow now that my dad's not here.

"It'll work itself out, but I've got no plans so far, just to go wherever my manager tells me to go."

In August, West Coast coach Adam Simpson said he was keen for Rioli to stay in Western Australia.

The 51-game goal sneak was a key member of the Eagles' 2018 premiership side.

With AAP

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