AFL lifts COVID-19 vaccine mandate

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The AFL has ended its compulsory COVID-19 vaccine mandate and will instead "strongly encourage" players to receive the jab.

The lifting of the vaccine requirement takes effect immediately, meaning the likes of former Carlton defender Liam Jones are eligible to play again.

Jones opted to retire rather than move to the Blues' inactive list following the AFL's decision to mandate vaccination last October.

The AFL on Thursday confirmed it had written to clubs saying the requirements had been scrapped after an "extensive" review.

"The health and safety of our players, staff and the wider community has been one of the guiding principles governing the AFL's ongoing response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic," AFL football operations manager Andrew Dillon said.

"Our AFL industry has continued to adapt to the circumstances in front of us, and while we have removed the mandatory vaccine mandate, we still maintain the view that vaccinations are the best form of defence in minimising the impacts of COVID with the focus now on keeping "up to date" with all recommended boosters.

"We will continue to monitor the COVID situation as it evolves.

"If we need to adjust over the coming weeks and months we will do so in consultation with the respective governments and medical professionals."

Only a handful of players showed any public resistance towards the vaccine mandate.

Jones and former Brisbane Lions midfielder Cameron Ellis-Yolmen were the only men's players to step away from the AFL rather than be vaccinated.

The pair have been playing local football in the Queensland state competition this year instead.

West Coast premiership forward Jack Darling eventually agreed to have the jab on the eve of the season after being unable to train with the Eagles for the majority of the pre-season.

Melbourne premiership forward Tom McDonald was vaccinated but spoke out publicly against the mandate, saying it was "ethically wrong".

The lifting of the mandate comes about six weeks away from the start of the new women's season.

St Kilda star Georgia Patrikios sat out all of last season after refusing to be vaccinated but will now be able to return in a major boost for the Saints.

Adelaide premiership defender Deni Varnhagen chose not to be vaccinated, leading her to miss the Crows' run to a third flag and she lost work as a nurse in South Australia.

However, Varnhagen will remain on Adelaide's inactive list for the upcoming season after recently announcing she was pregnant.

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