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‘Ethically wrong’: AFL star not keen on mandatory jabs

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18th October, 2021
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Melbourne premiership star Tom McDonald is strongly against mandatory vaccinations for AFL players, saying the move would be ethically wrong.

As the league finalises its vaccination policy, Richmond also have confirmed an AFLW player has tested positive to COVID-19.

And Adelaide AFLW player Deni Varnhagen, who is a registered nurse, reportedly has told the Crows she is not willing to have a COVID-19 shot.

The AFL is yet to finalise a 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 key 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 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.

Tom McDonald

(Photo by Michael Dodge/AFL Media/Getty Images)

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

As per AFLW protocols, Saturday’s scheduled training session did not proceed.

But as Richmond also trained last Thursday, all of their AFLW players and staff who attended that session are self-isolating and awaiting health department advice.

“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.

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

Also, Adelaide say they strongly urge people to be vaccinated after Varnhagen, a two-time AFLW premiership player, reportedly told them she is not willing to receive a COVID-19 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 have 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 SA, but the state’s healthcare workers need to have at least one jab before November 1.

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.”

The AFLW season is due to start on January 6.