The AFL has lifted its COVID vaccine mandate, now allowing unvaccinated players and staff members to return to playing, training and general duties at their respective clubs.
The league introduced the mandate in October last season ahead of the AFL's pre-season and the sixth season of the AFLW, with the mandate outlining strict guidelines for both competitions to have personnel receive two vaccinations for the virus.
On Thursday the AFL informed all 18 clubs that players will no longer be required to have first and second vaccines doses, instead "strongly encouraging all AFL and AFLW Players and AFL industry people to have an up to date COVID-19 vaccination status which includes all recommended booster shots".
“The health and safety of our players, staff and the wider community has been one of the guiding principles governing the AFL’s ongoing response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.” AFL EGM Andrew Dillon said in a league statement.
“Our AFL industry has continued to adapt to the circumstances in front of us, and while we have removed the mandatory vaccine mandate, we still maintain the view that vaccinations are the best form of defense in minimizing the impacts of COVID with the focus now on keeping “up to date” with all recommended boosters.
“We will continue to monitor the COVID situation as it evolves. If we need to adjust over the coming weeks and months, we will do so in consultation with the respective Governments and medical professionals.
“As an industry we are committed to providing a safe environment for all our people and doing what we can to reduce the risk and impact of transmission of COVID-19 within the community.”
With players no longer required to be double vaccinated, retired Blues defender Liam Jones will be available to return to the competition in the next 12 months.
Jones called time on his career at Princes Park in the weeks after the AFL confirmed the mandate, with the 31-year-old hesitant to follow the league's protocols.
Essendon have already been seen meeting with the former Carlton and Bulldogs defender, who could have been available for the Blues this weekend had he had instead opted to be placed on the club's inactive list instead of retiring.
Lion Cam Ellis-Yolmen was moved to his club's inactive list and eventually called time on his career after deciding not to receive a COVID vaccination.
The former Crows midfielder has since moved to SANFL side Woodville-West Torrens for the remainder of the 2022 season.
The lifted mandate will also aid the complications for St Kilda midfielder Georgia Patrikios and Crow Deni Varnhagen, who sat out the recent AFLW season due to their vaccination stance.
Varnhagen is already set to miss the upcoming season of the Women's competition due to the birth of her child.
AFL and AFLW sides are understood to have a majority of their lists triple vaccinated as the league looks to continue to follow state government requirements, with the nation facing another spike in case numbers and spread.