AFL formulates vaccine education program

Luke Beveridge says AFL players are becoming paranoid with the list of exposure sites increasing.
Luke Beveridge says AFL players are becoming paranoid with the list of exposure sites increasing.

The AFL is working on an education program to inform players about the coronavirus vaccine and will encourage people in the industry to get the jab.

Ever-growing exposure sites and border closures have wreaked havoc with the season, with Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge admitting players and staff are paranoid about going anywhere.

AFL boss Gillon McLachlan said the league was preparing its approach to vaccination, which hadn't yet been a consideration because of broad supply issues.

"We have made a decision as a league, the priority is vulnerable groups get vaccinated first. We have never considered going ahead of those," he told radio station 3AW on Friday.

"As supply (issues) are coming off the table we have a working group formulating an education program so all of our industry can get all the information they need around vaccination to make an informed decision.

"As supply comes on, we will be encouraging all of our players and our staff to get vaccinated."

McLachlan said the league would have a "sensible discussion" with the Victorian government if crowd restrictions impact the grand final at the MCG.

Last year's decider was shifted to the Gabba in Brisbane to ensure a healthy crowd could attend.

"We have a contract to play at the MCG. Last year showed if we could not play there with a decent crowd we would review it, but that is not in our contemplation at the moment," McLachlan said.

A long list of players and club staff have been forced into 14-day isolation periods after unwittingly attending exposure sites this month.

Bulldogs midfielder Josh Dunkley was told to isolate after visiting his local cafe and will miss Saturday night's clash with Melbourne.

St Kilda's Rowan Marshall and GWS star Toby Greene are among the high-profile players out of action.

"All of us are a bit paranoid about going anywhere," Beveridge said.

"There's so many Tier 1 and Tier 2 sites, but it just comes down to common sense really.

"Our players know that and I think we're avoiding being stuck in any one place for any period of time, including supermarkets et cetera."

Many players and staff now isolating were ordered to do so after attending the Wallabies' rugby union international against France at AAMI Park, which drew more than 20,000 fans.

West Coast star Andrew Gaff said this week he believed clubs would start implementing their own restrictions - including staying away from large crowds - to ensure players aren't forced to isolate and miss matches at the pointy end of the season.

But Beveridge is wary of putting players on too tight a leash once Victoria's lockdown is over.

"This is the challenge with their lifestyle and young people are missing out on so much these days with the rules and extra layers that the AFL sort of imposes over the top of society," Beveridge said.

"We've got to be careful that we don't create extra ones because there's enough already.

"There's not a lot of freedom in it, as we know, but I think everyone's being sensible."

The AFL faces a host of issues around next week's fixture but the Bulldogs believe they will be cleared to host Adelaide in Ballarat in round 20.

North Melbourne are hopeful of being given exemptions to host Geelong in Hobart, while Essendon are likely to remain in their temporary base in Queensland where they will take on Sydney.

Australian Associated Press