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West Coast Eagles

Team announcement: Rioli gets selection tick

Willie Rioli is back for our inaugural Waalitj Dreaming Game!

Dynamic small forward Willie Rioli will make his highly-anticipated return to senior football when he begins his 2019 campaign against Melbourne at Optus Stadium tomorrow night.

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After suffering a stress-related foot injury in the last training session before the opening game of the season against Brisbane, Rioli has been slowly building towards reclaiming his place in the team for this round nine encounter.

Senior coach Adam Simpson trumpeted the possible return of Rioli during the week and when he emerged unscathed from the main session on Tuesday night his resumption was rubber-stamped.

The livewire forward, a key facet of the 2018 premiership, comes into the team at the expense of fellow forward Jake Waterman, again an unlucky omission.

Waterman was a solid contributor last week, playing as a high half-forward and helping to establish the chain of possessions that transitioned defence to attack in an important win against St Kilda.

That was the only change for this clash with the Demons, beaten preliminary finalists at this venue last season and a team that represents a big challenge for the Eagles.

The match committee resisted the temptation to recall ruckman Tom Hickey to create a double-edged counter to Melbourne big man  Max Gawn.

Instead that responsibility will rest with Nathan Vardy, who has carried the bulk of the responsibility in the ruck in the last fortnight.

Hickey played his best game for the club against Geelong in round six, but strained a hamstring in the process and could not be considered in the last fortnight.

In an unusual circumstance the WAFL Eagles play tonight against East Perth and two of the four emergencies selected in the AFL team’s 26-man squad are likely to be held over.

Hickey, defender Jackson Nelson, Waterman and wingman Josh Smith were listed as emergencies.