The Victorian state government has confirmed athletes fall under the essential worker category which will require mandatory vaccinations in order to return to work.
Professional athletes will fall under the category of 'authorised workers' in Victoria, who have until the deadline of October 15 to receive the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine and November 15 the second.
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Victoria's extensive list of authorised workers includes "professional or high-performance sportsperson, workers that support the safe running of that person's professional sport, and public broadcast personnel necessary for broadcasting the professional sport".
State premier Daniel Andrews said he was expecting to hold discussions with the AFL over how this would affect players and staff returning to pre-season training later this year.
However, the mandate is unlikely to have a major effect on clubs, which have already been urging players to be vaccinated.
AFL teams begin their staggered returns to preseason in November, with the Western Bulldogs recently confirming their entire squad had received their first vaccine dose while AFLW players are currently in preseason training.
"I expect there'll be a conversation, for instance, with the AFL, where the AFL will be informed, on behalf of all their clubs, that if you want to go back to preseason training in a month's time or so, you will need to be double-vaxxed, as an authorised worker," Andrews said.
"Even after we get to 80 per cent (double-dosed) and the authorisations are no longer there, the mandate, the rule, the Chief Health Officer direction will stay in place because cases will still be an issue then."
The government decision took the vaccination issue out of the hands of Victorian clubs.
Mandatory vaccination of players taken out of the hands of the AFL.
Following today's announcement, as "authorised workers" if players want to return to training they MUST be fully vaccinated by November 26.
A significant announcement, taking the decision away from AFL.
— Shane McInnes (@shanemcinnes) October 1, 2021
The afl was on track for 100 percent vaccination anyway.
But all AFL players in Victoria must be vaccinated under these orders
— Tom Browne (@TomBrowne7) October 1, 2021
Other codes unfazed by Victorian vaccine move
Melbourne's A-League Men and A-League Women teams are both in preseason training ahead of their November 19 and December 3 season start dates, while the NBL and WNBL are scheduled to tip off in November.
Super Rugby's Rebels and the NRL's Storm will also kick off their preseason in the coming months.
There should be little short-term impact on the state's cricketers.
Cricket Australia (CA) is hoping to finalise arrangements for Victoria's male squad to depart and quarantine in another state soon, ensuring their Sheffield Shield campaign can start.
Female cricketers from Melbourne have already started their quarantine stint in Tasmania ahead of the WBBL, which begins on October 14.
International players were able to access the COVID-19 vaccine earlier this year, while there is unlikely to be any domestic or international games in Melbourne until December.
None of Australia's major sporting codes have implemented mandatory coronavirus vaccination rules yet, though the NBL's New Zealand Breakers recently parted ways with Tai Webster and the Illawarra Hawks released Travis Trice after those players were unwilling to receive the vaccine.
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