AFLW responds to premiership player's vaccine refusal stance

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·Sports Reporter
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Adelaide Crows player Deni Varnhagen, left, is against vaccination against Covid-19, despite encouragement from league boss Nicole Livingstone.
Adelaide Crows player Deni Varnhagen is the first AFLW player to publicly voice opposition to receiving vaccination against Covid-19, despite league boss Nicole Livingstone urging players to get the jab. Pictures: Getty Images

AFLW boss Nicole Livingstone has responded after two-time Adelaide Crows premiership player Deni Varnhagen reportedly refused to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

Livingstone said had done 'much as we can' to educate and inform players about the vaccine and how it works, but added that it was ultimately a choice players would have to make for themselves.

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Varnhagen is the first player from either men's or women's AFL to publicly refuse the vaccine.

The 28-year-old, who has a background in nursing and has worked in intensive care units, posted video from a march in Adelaide supporting 'freedom of choice'.

In another post, she held up a sign reading 'health care hero's (sic) in 2020 … unvaxed unwanted in 2021'.

Her account has since been set to private.

According to NewsCorp, Varnhagen is believed to be the only Crows player yet to receive the vaccine.

After 31, games in five seasons for the Crows, including premierships in 2017 and 2019, Livingstone said she was hopeful the 28-year-old could be swayed by club officials.

“Given it is a player from South Australia there is still a little more time to work through that approach for Deni as well,” she said.

“I don’t know the intimate details of that but we will support the players as much as we can.

“Look I think with the different borders, and we don’t know what it will look like in January, it will be a wait-and-see approach in terms of borders.

“It will certainly make it much more easier to be an athlete if you are vaccinated. Again it is up to the athlete to make an informed decision.”

In a statement, the Adelaide Crows stressed that they could not reveal the vaccination status of any of their players, but added that they were strongly encouraging all to do so.

"Our club strongly encourages people to be vaccinated against COVID-19," a club statement read.

"The club remains committed to following the health advice and guidelines set by government and the AFL."

In an interview with SEN, Livingstone outlined what the league had done to help players come to an informed decision of their own.

Education sessions had been particularly prominent in their strategy, she said.

“We’ve done as much as we can in terms of medical advice,” Livingstone told SEN.

“We’ve run information sessions. If a player feels like they need more information we are happy to provide that.

“But at the end of the day we are still living through a global pandemic and if anybody whether it is AFL, AFLW or any other sport feels like playing a sport in a global pandemic is not for them I have to respect that as well."

AFLW Tiger tests positive for COVID-19

Meanwhile, A Richmond AFLW player has tested positive for COVID-19.

The Tigers confirmed a player had returned a positive result after a pre-training rapid antigen test on Saturday.

Training did not occur that day as a result and Richmond's AFLW squad is isolating and awaiting directions from Victoria's Department of Health as to the duration of their self-quarantine period.

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

The AFL is yet to finalise a vaccination policy but the Victorian government's requirement about a range of workers, which includes footballers, needing to be vaccinated or have a booking came into effect last Friday.

Most Victorian clubs have confirmed to AAP that their AFLW programs are all compliant with the government vaccine protocols and players have been cleared to train and play.

Adelaide's Deni Varnhagen is tackled during an AFLW match.
Deni Varnhagen's refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19 could cause problems for the Adelaide Crows. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

There is no similar vaccine requirement in South Australia but the state's healthcare workers do need to have at least one jab before November 1.

Crows superstar Erin Phillips, who is the AFLW's most decorated player, said she was yet to speak with Varnhagen about her stance.

"Everybody has a choice whether they want to be vaccinated or not," Phillips told Mix 102.3.

"From my point of view, it's the ramifications that are going to come with not being vaccinated.

"I'm assuming in this situation with AFL, it's probably going to come to a point where if you're not vaccinated fully, you won't be allowed to play."

The AFLW season is due to get underway on January 6.

With AAP

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