Suspended West Coast Eagles player Willie Rioli will appear in court in Darwin on Wednesday after being charged with possession of cannabis, just three months out from his return to football.

Rioli, 25, was charged with possessing a schedule 2 dangerous drug, less than traffickable quantity, in a public place.

A Northern Territory Police media release from April 23 said a drug detection dog was conducting screening operations at Darwin Airport when 25 grams of cannabis was found in a man’s pants.

The charge is the latest in a string of controversies for the young Eagle. In 2019, Rioli was suspended for tampering with a urine sample during a standard ASADA drug test and later testing positive for a cannabis metabolite.

He was provisionally suspended in September 2019, facing a ban of up to four years from the game, and was forced to wait 15 months to have his case heard by the anti-doping tribunal, a move which was heavily criticised by the club and the public.

In March this year, Rioli was found guilty of three breaches of the AFL’s anti-doping code and received a two-year back-dated suspension.

The new charge comes as a shock as the AFL community was backing Rioli in the initial stages through his lengthy anti-doping tribunal process.

In March, West Coast chief executive Trevor Nisbett put Rioli’s actions down to lack of education and felt the AFL had let him down.

Rioli remains on contract with the Eagles through to the end of the 2022 AFL season, with the club stating they will not be commenting on the matter.

“As this is a legal matter before the courts the club will not make any official statement at this time. The club will support Willie through this process,” the club said.

By Teisha Cloos