West Coast great Will Schofield's surprise comeback amid 'embarrassing' AFL crisis

Will Schofield retired back in 2020, but has answered the call from the West Coast Eagles in a time of need.

West Coast Eagles player Will Schofield.
West Coast Eagles great Will Schofield has come out of retirement to help the team field a reserves side in the WAFL. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Media/Getty Images)

The West Coast Eagles have lured fan favourite Will Schofield out of AFL retirement, as the club deals with a massive injury crisis. The Eagles have been so beset by injury that they are struggling to field an AFL team, let along a full complement in their reserves team for the WAFL.

Schofield announced he was making his return to the footy field to lend a hand to his former club on Thursday afternoon. The 14-year AFL veteran hung up the boots in 2020 after 194 games and a premiership in 2018.

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It was out of a sense of loyalty to the club that Schofield made himself available, left uneasy after the Eagles copped a 169-point thumping at the hands of West Perth last weekend. Just six AFL listed players were available for the WAFL match, which was reduced to five just minutes into the first quarter when young gun Elijah Hewett suffered an ankle injury.

According to Eagles football boss Gavin Bell, the Eagles had as many as 17 listed players unavailable for selection as of Monday night. It comes as the Eagles' performance in the state league was labelled 'embarrassing' by WAFL chairman Wayne Martin.

Schofield however, is simply happy to get back out in the blue and gold and do his bit for the club which he called home for over a decade. Since his retirement, Schofield has emerged as a popular media figure, penning columns for CODE Sports among others.

“On Monday I was involved in my weekly segment with Adam Simpson and I mentioned it again, half jokingly, that I was available if needed,” the 34-year-old wrote for CODE. “The wheels were in motion.”

“I was actually offered a sum of money to play, but I didn’t really need it, and said I would prefer to play for nothing. Full disclosure: I haven’t trained or played a game of footy since I broke my back playing for Peel Thunder in the middle of 2021.

"I have kept myself reasonably fit – check out Strava account if you don’t believe me! – but I am not expecting to go out there this weekend and wow everyone with my athleticism."

It's the second year in a row that the Eagles have faced an almost inconceivable injury toll. Club great Glenn Jakovich reported earlier in the week that the club had considered asking the WAFL to postpone their round three match against East Fremantle.

West Coast Eagles struggling to fill reserves team amid injury woes

It's a situation that has left nobody emerging as a winner. Fellow WAFL sides aren't getting a proper match, the Eagles haven't been able to develop players properly and crucially, fans are missing out.

Martin said that he was understanding of West Coast's predicament, but said it was nevertheless disappointing after the club was a similar non-factor in the WAFL last year.

“The result on the weekend was not good for footy, not good for the competition,” Martin told SEN, referring to the 169-point loss to West Perth. “We were hoping that this year West Coast’s WAFL side was going to be more competitive because frankly it was an embarrassment to the competition last year and it’s starting to look a bit the same.

The West Coast Eagles.
West Coast have won just one of their first five matches this AFL season, beset by an injury crisis that has flowed on to their reserves side. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

“What we can do as competition is if we are approached by West Coast, we can look at possibly some rule changes to make it easier for them to bring in additional players outside their existing squad, maybe elevate some people up from amateur footy – something of that sort to make the WAFL team a bit more competitive.”

The West Coast reserves only remained in the WAFL for 2022 by the skin of their teeth, with a similar lack of success in 2021 prompting series questions over the viability of the state league team. The remained in the competition after an agreement was reached giving the club additional allowances for the season.

Those didn't add up to much however, with the Eagles winning just one game last season. They also had one game in which they could only muster one goal, a devastating loss to Swan Districts.

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