WEST Coast premiership forward Willie Rioli will not make his anticipated playing return at any level this week after suffering hamstring tightness that has ruled him out of Saturday's clash against Brisbane.
Coach Adam Simpson confirmed key pair Josh Kennedy (finger) and Jeremy McGovern (hip) would also be sidelined for the must-win game, joining star midfielder Tim Kelly (knee) and Brad Sheppard (concussion) on the sidelines.
The Eagles had settled on playing Rioli at AFL level this week before his setback in what would have been his first game at any level since the 2019 elimination final against Essendon.
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If they fail to break into the top eight at the end of round 23, the club will consider whether he makes his return in the final two rounds of the WAFL season.
"It's disappointing, but he pulled up a bit tight a couple of days ago and unfortunately we can't play him as much as we all want to," Simpson said on Thursday.
"It's been a really good process for him and the club the last eight weeks. I'm really proud of what he's done and he's got complete buy-in from our players and staff.
"He's back. His suspension is over, he just won't be playing this week. He's done everything he can, he just couldn't get to the line."
Simpson said he was proud of the way the skilful forward had handled his return to the club after a two-year ban for twice tampering with a urine sample.
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He said there had not been any opposition within the club to playing the 26-year-old against the Lions if he was fit and deemed in the best 22 players available.
"We were going to play him," the coach said. "Everyone we spoke to was pretty keen to get him in."
McGovern won't be available this week and will eventually require surgery for a hip injury that he has been carrying for almost two years.
Simpson said the club would wait until after the weekend before confirming surgery, given the season could remain alive if results fall the Eagles' way.
Kennedy has also been ruled out after returning to the field with a compound fracture in a finger against Fremantle last Sunday.
The veteran's absence means young tall Oscar Allen will play a prominent role forward against the Lions after being swung back last week against Fremantle.
The Eagles will also look to several young players to step up and provide energy in the same manner they did in back-to-back wins against Carlton and Richmond in rounds 12 and 13.
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"What we have got out of this year is we've got some opportunities for younger players to come through," Simpson said.
"Luke Edwards, Luke Foley, Harry Edwards, these types of players, Connor West. So they've had a good sniff of AFL footy and they'll get it again this week.
"Technically the season is still alive, so we want to have a swing and play some really good footy against a really good side in Brisbane."