The AFL is unlikely to make vaccinations for COVID-19 mandatory for players this year, as the competition continues to follow government advice.

AFL sources said the league did not expect vaccines to be compulsory for players this year, when clubs and players would not be given any special privileges in terms of early access to the vaccines by the government.

The AFL is unlikely to make vaccinations for COVID-19 mandatory for players.Credit:Getty

The AFL expected that the vast majority of players would be administered with a vaccine and that the game did not need every single player to be vaccinated in order to keep the game safe. Sources said there should be a herd immunity within the playing group developed once the overwhelming majority were given one of the vaccines.

The AFL players will be like most of the community in terms of access to vaccination and, as such, league sources said the players wouldn’t be receiving the vaccines for a while yet.

The AFL’s only proviso was that governments – state or federal – could request compulsory vaccines.

It is unclear, however, what would happen if some players refused to take the vaccine in those circumstances. The AFL has not yet established a formal policy on vaccination for COVID-19.

The AFL was also mindful of the embarrassing pneumococcal vaccination episode of last year – when the league apologised to Indigenous players and their families after a communication breakdown – in taking a position that the vaccine was not expected to be compulsory for players.

The AFL, acting on the Queensland government’s recommendation that Indigenous players have the vaccine before entering the state, copped a strong backlash from some Indigenous players who felt it was discriminatory – the league having initially made it compulsory for Indigenous players.

Meanwhile, the AFL’s head of talent and the official with oversight of the expanded VFL and NAB League for under-19s will be based in Queensland in 2021, rather than Melbourne.

Tristan Salter, who runs the talent pathways for the AFL, will be based in Queensland where he will also work for the Gold Coast Suns in helping the club’s growth.

Grant Williams, who had worked in managing the umpiring department at the AFL, has been shifted into a senior pathways role, reporting to Salter.

The pathways to the AFL – including the NAB League for elite young talent and the VFL (which has included reserves teams for the Sydney and Queensland AFL teams this year) – have been the subject of considerable angst in recruiting circles at club level since last year, when those levels of the game were quickly abandoned due to the pandemic.

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