'Ethically wrong': Uproar over Covid-19 jab controversy in AFL

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Deni Varnhagen, pictured here in action for the Adelaide Crows.
Deni Varnhagen (L) has reportedly refused to get the Covid-19 jab, which has been made mandatory for athletes in Victoria. Image: Getty

AFL premiership star Tom McDonald has spoken out against mandatory vaccinations for players in Melbourne, amid controversy over AFLW player Deni Varnhagen's reported refusal to get the Covid-19 jab.

Adelaide Crows player Varnhagen, who is a registered nurse, has reportedly told the club she is not willing to have a Covid-19 shot.

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The AFL is yet to finalise its vaccination policy, but the Victorian government's requirement about a range of workers, including footballers, needing to be vaccinated or have a booking, came into effect last Friday.

"I'm vaccinated and most players would have been, but ... it's ethically wrong to force people to (have) a medical procedure," McDonald said on Monday.

The Melbourne Demons forward said he supports mandatory jabs in sectors such as health and aged care - but not the AFL.

"We're on track - we would have gotten 90 per cent of the state - and I don't see why we needed to cause such issues and division by forcing people in many jobs where it's probably not as necessary," he said.

McDonald also said he would play against an unvaccinated opponent.

"No issue at all - that's why you get vaccinated, to protect yourself. I don't understand why we need to force other players," he said.

The only reported incidence of an AFL or AFLW player returning a positive Covid-19 test was former Essendon player Conor McKenna in June of 2020.

Tom McDonald, pictured here during the AFL grand final between the Melbourne Demons and Western Bulldogs.
Tom McDonald (second from left) during the AFL grand final between the Melbourne Demons and Western Bulldogs. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

AFLW player reportedly refuses Covid-19 jab

On Monday, Adelaide said they strongly urge people to get vaccinated after Varnhagen, a two-time AFLW premiership player, reportedly told them she is not willing to receive the jab.

A nurse with experience working in ICU wards, Varnhagen has become the first known AFL or AFLW player to refuse the Covid-19 vaccination.

The Crows issued a statement following multiple reports, but stressed they could not confirm or deny any player's vaccination status due to medical confidentiality.

"Our club strongly encourages people to be vaccinated against COVID-19," the statement read.

Most Victorian clubs have confirmed to AAP that their AFLW programs are all compliant with the state government vaccine protocols and players have been cleared to train and play.

There is no similar vaccine requirement in South Australia, but the state's healthcare workers need to have at least one jab before November 1.

Deni Varnhagen, pictured here on Instagram.
Deni Varnhagen is a registered nurse as well as AFLW player. Image: Instagram

Varnhagen posted a video on social media on Saturday showing people marching in Adelaide for "freedom of choice".

The 28-year-old then followed it up with another clip holding a sign that read: "Health care hero's (sic) in 2020 ... unvaxed unwanted in 2021".

AFLW chief executive Nicole Livingstone said the league's priority was to protect players, staff and the community.

"We are still living through a global pandemic, and if anybody ... feels like playing a sport during a global pandemic is not for them, then I have to respect that," she told SEN.

"There's still a little more time to work through that approach for Deni."

Meanwhile, Richmond confirmed on Monday that an AFLW player had returned a positive result after a pre-training rapid antigen test on Saturday, with a subsequent PCR test also positive.

"While the person did not enter the facility or mix with people at the club on Saturday, out of an abundance of caution, all other members of the Richmond AFLW bubble were tested over the weekend, with each returning a negative result," the Tigers said.

with AAP

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