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Liam Jones announces AFL retirement amid vaccination stance fallout

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14th November, 2021
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Carlton Blues defender Liam Jones, who last week became the first player publicly revealed as having refused the AFL’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccination, has announced his retirement.

Jones, who had one year remaining on his contract, released a statement on Sunday afternoon confirming his decision to step away from the game, thanked his former teammates and requested that his privacy be respected.

“I wish to announce my retirement from AFL football effective immediately,” Jones said.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank all who have supported me throughout my journey, both personally and professionally. I love the game and I’ll miss my teammates.

“I hope that people respect my decision and privacy – neither myself or my management team will be making any further comment on the matter.”

The defender had attracted controversy for his vaccination stance, with former player turned media commentator Kane Cornes particularly scathing.

“I don’t agree with his choice not to be vaccinated; I think in a team sport like AFL, it is all about the team,” Cornes said on SEN SA.

“This is, in some way, putting the individual before the team and hurting his team in their plight to win a premiership.

“He’ll have to wear the ramifications of that, and that is probably finishing his career prematurely, unfortunately.”

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Cornes’ prediction, while criticised by some, has proven to be correct.

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The 30-year old finishes with 161 career games, 95 of which were at the Blues. He was acclaimed for rejuvenating his career in defence after struggling up forward at the Western Bulldogs and at the start of his time with the Blues.

Blues’ head of football Brad Lloyd paid tribute to Jones’ time at the club, while avoiding any mention of the controversy that appears to have ended his career.

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“We have been in constant dialogue with Liam in recent months and allowing him the time he needed to make an informed decision regarding his playing career,” Lloyd said in the club’s statement.

“Liam confirmed with us today that he has made the decision to retire, and his wish for the specific reasons of that decision to be kept private – as a club, we will be respecting that.

“We thank Liam for his seven years of service to the Carlton Football Club. He earned every part of the 161 games he played, which included a complete positional transformation in the middle of his career, that could have only been possible with supreme dedication and hard work.

“We wish Liam all the best for the next phase of his life.”

The Blues will now work with the AFL to determine their options to replace Jones on their senior list. Clubs have the option of moving players who refuse a COVID vaccination to an inactive list, allowing them to remain at the club but at a significant pay reduction and unable to play at any level.

Adelaide’s AFLW team recently exercised that option, transferring dual-premiership player Deni Varnhagen to their inactive list over her much-publicised anti-vaccination stance.

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