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Recently banned AFLW player Deni Varnhagen says it has been a 'challenging time' for her as her refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19 has cost her her Adelaide Crows career.
Varnhagen, a two-time premiership player for the Crows, also stands to lose her job as an intensive care nurse over her stance.
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The 29-year-old showed up at an anti-vaccination rally in Adelaide last week, protesting mandatory vaccines for health care workers.
It's a remarkable change in tune from Varnhagen, who last year appeared in an AFL campaign to thank nurses for their work during the initial nationwide lockdown in 2020.
Under the policy, all AFLW players and football staff are required to receive their first vaccination by November 19 and be fully vaccinated by December 17.
In a post on Instagram, Varnhagen thanked her supporters and vowed she would stand by 'what I believe in' - despite coronavirus vaccines having been proven to be safe by health authorities in countries around the world.
Varngahen had previously referred to Covid-19 vaccinations as a 'medical experiment'.
“Firstly I want to thank the community (near and far), my family and friends for their overwhelming support this past month, it has been so so incredible and has really helped me through this deeply challenging time,” she wrote.
“I’ve always stood up for what I believe in and I will continue to do that, no matter how difficult the journey may seem, there will be light and joy at the end of this road.
“Unfortunately I need to step away from the club for now. I will always love my footy and team, I hope that I can join my teammates again soon.”
Adelaide Crows captain open to Deni Varnhagen AFLW return
Crows captain Chelsea Randall says it's up to Deni Varnhagen whether she changes her mind on the COVID-19 vaccination.
Randall was asked on Monday whether she thought Varnhagen might change her mind.
"That's probably a decision for Dani, isn't it? It's probably more a question for her," she said.
Randall added it had been a unique situation that was challenging for the player and the club.
— TomRehn9 (@tomrehn9) November 8, 2021
"We respect her decision, we love Deni as a person and the decision's been made now," she said.
"We're just going to focus on our footy, rolling into next season."
Randall said the Crows are staying in touch with Varnhagen.
"It was a mutual decision obviously, putting Deni on the inactive list, and she's said she's going to keep training hard," she said.
"What that looks (like) for us is to remain in contact with Dani and support her.
"Deni and I had conversations, but obviously that was something between us - more just caring about her.
"She entitled to her decision."
Asked if she tried to change Varnhagen's mind, Randall said: "as I said, you just have to respect - everyone's entitled to everyone's opinion, but the club's stance is with the AFL and endorsed with being vaccinated.
"We strongly encourage that."
Randall was reappointed Crows captain on Monday.
She was co-captain with Erin Phillips from 2017-20 and had the role by herself last season.
Stevie-Lee Thompson has been elevated to the leadership group, joining Sarah Allan and Eloise Jones.
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