West Coast Eagles fans get chance to welcome back Willie Rioli as open training resumes

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West Coast fans will get an opportunity to welcome Willie Rioli back into the fold next week as the Eagles prepare to open up training to supporters for the first time since the pandemic.

Rioli is eligible to return to the club from Sunday amid his two-year backdated suspension for tampering with a urine sample.

The 2018 premiership player can train with West Coast for a two-month block before a potential August 20 return-to-play date once his ban comes to an end.

The popular small forward’s return to Mineral Resources Park will coincide with the club opening the doors to supporters to watch training on Tuesday, bringing to an end a string of necessary closed sessions for health and safety reasons during the COVID-19 era.

Rioli is sure to be a closely-watched participant for the 10:30am session, but he won’t be the only one.

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Supporters will be keen to check out the progress of skipper Luke Shuey, who is shaping up for a return against the Western Bulldogs next week should he get through tomorrow’s WAFL appearance for the Eagles reserves side.

Fellow stars Jeremy McGovern, Tim Kelly and Brad Sheppard are also in line to face the Dogs should they avoid hurdles on the track next week.

Speaking earlier this year, Eagles coach Adam Simpson said fan connection was a vital part of footy clubs.

“I said to someone today, ‘When was the last time we actually signed an autograph at training? And we had an open day where you come down and watch our players train?’” he said.

“It’s been over a year. A big part of footy clubs are their fans, the engagement and the connection that you do get every now and then at training or the family days or clinics and school visits. And we just have not done any in over 12 months.

“It affects your purpose, I think, as a player. The crowds are part of us and part of Fremantle as well. And for the economy and the clubs’ survival, you just hope that we do get back to a normal season.

“I just worry that there could be a few twists and turns to come.”

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