West Coast’s All-Australian defender Brad Sheppard says Willie Rioli’s teammates continue to support him as the wait for an outcome to his doping case drags on.
It is now more than 520 days since Rioli and the Eagles were told of a doping infraction notice for allegedly tampering with a urine sample late in the 2019 season.
He subsequently also returned a positive post match test to traces of cannabis but it is expected to be the urine tampering charge that will carry most weight when he is sentenced.
The offence carries a penalty of up to four years.
Sheppard says most of the team is still in touch with Rioli.
“Just keeping tabs to see how he’s going and check up on him,” he said.
“He’s a mate to a lot of the players here. Nothing really about footy, just how he’s going.”
“We all know it’s been a pretty difficult time for him over the course of the last couple of years, so we just want to keep tabs and see how he’s going.”
“I think the whole footy world would like to find out either way what’s going on, so hopefully that can happen soon.”
Sheppard has also played down the significance of a couple of key pre-season Eagles injuries and believed they were in good shape for the season.
Elliot Yeo is battling an ongoing groin concern while captain Luke Shuey (calf) and veteran forward Josh Kennedy are also on managed programs.
Sheppard says it was a marathon season and it was how the team got through it that mattered, not just the start.
“We’ve got a couple of guys on the sidelines who should be back in the next few weeks. Early stages the boys are tracking really well. They’re all positive.”
“There’s still another six or seven weeks before round one. Whether they get up for round one, they’re all positive they will be, so it’s just pre-season games.”
“Ideally, you’ve got everyone fit and ready to go for round one, but if they don’t get up it’s a long year.”