The AFL has announced it will be mandatory for all players, in both the men's and women's leagues, to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in order to play and train in the league.
The announcement was made on Thursday, with players given deadlines to be vaccinated before further action is taken.
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In Victoria, players will be required to be fully vaccinated by November 26.
Players in NSW must be vaccinated by December 17, while all other players across the country must have both doses of the vaccine by February 18 - unless a medical exemption is provided.
If a player chooses not to be vaccinated, the AFL has indicated several actions to be taken.
Losses of up to 75% of a player's salary could be incurred for AFLW players, while AFL players will be paid only the minimum base salary outlined in their collective bargaining agreement.
AFL and AFLW teams will have the option of either keeping a player listed or moving them to the inactive player list should they not be vaccinated by the deadline.
If the player agrees, teams can terminate their contract.
However, if the player does not agree to having their contract torn up, the AFL has allowed clubs to settle any disputes through the courts, with the stipulation that no contracts are to be torn up before May 18 next year.
AFL requirements for players and staff to be fully vaccinated…
AFL and AFLW in Vic: Nov 26
All remaining AFLW players & AFL in NSW: Dec 17
AFL in WA, SA, QLD: Feb 18
And for those who don’t comply: pic.twitter.com/X2H1TVJu6C
— Mitch Cleary (@cleary_mitch) October 21, 2021
The AFL reached an agreement with the Players' Association before announcing the mandate on Thursday.
"The Policy will require all AFL and AFLW players and football program staff to be vaccinated in advance of the start of the AFL and AFLW seasons according to a progressive schedule," the league said in a statement.
"The policy has been introduced following an extensive education program across the clubs and industry in regard to COVID-19 vaccinations and the AFL will continue to work with the AFLPA to provide all players and staff further support and guidance through the evolving situation.
"The policy reflects the AFL's strongly held view that as the governing body of the sport, we share responsibility to address the risk of exposure to COVID-19 of our players and football program staff, and in delivering upon this responsibility, TGA approved vaccines offer the best possible protection in keeping our people safe, healthy and together.
"Further, it provides our sport the opportunity to recover from the COVID-19 interruptions that have beset both the AFL and AFLW competitions in these past two years."
Outrage over AFL champion's vaccine claim
The AFL's announcement comes after controversies surrounding statement's from Melbourne's Tom McDonald and Adelaide's Deni Varnhagen.
McDonald, who is fully vaccinated, said he didn't understand why vaccine mandates were necessary, while it emerged Varnhagen was opposed to vaccination against Covid-19, despite her background in nursing and prior experience working in intensive care units.
McDonald added he would have 'no issue' taking the field against unvaccinated players.
“That’s why you get vaccinated, you protect yourself. I don’t understand why we need to force other players to,” McDonald said.
However his comments were met with backlash within the AFL world, with many pointing out that the point of vaccinating against any disease was not solely to protect the individual.
AFL great Matthew Richardson called out McDonald for his take on the mandate, arguing the premiership defender was overlooking importance of protecting the vulnerable.
In his post on Twitter, Richardson didn't specifically refer to McDonald - but in the wake of AFLW player Deni Varnhagen's reported refusal to get jabbed, it was clear the Richmond great was sending a message.
“For someone with a close family member with a serious illness and compromised immune system it staggers me that you wouldn’t get vaccinated,” Richardson said.
“It’s not just about you and your choice.”
Richardson had support from former Brownlow medallist Adam Cooney, who described the post as 'the greatest thing anyone has ever tweeted'.
"It’s not just about you, think of others!” Cooney added.
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