Australian Football League (AFL) star defender Liam Jones announced his immediate retirement from the sport on Sunday, with allegations the decision came from his refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
“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.”
Jones did not give a reason for his retirement and asked that people respect his decision and privacy.
“Neither myself nor my management team will be making any further comment on the matter,” he said.
An AFL Official reported that they understood the decision to be related to Victoria’s mandatory vaccination policy, where all players are required to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 26 to be able to attend pre-season activities.
Jones’ decision came despite having one year remaining on his contract with Carlton, worth nearly $500,000.
Carlton’s head of football, Brad Lloyd, said Jones’ reasoning was personal and that the club did not give him an ultimatum.
“We threw support around him so he could make a decision on where he wanted to go with his future, but it sort of escalated in the last week-and-a-half or so,” Lloyd told SEN radio. “It really came to a head late last week and over the weekend that Liam was pretty strong on his decision to retire from AFL footy.”
Lloyd later added that he expected all currently listed players to be fully vaccinated before pre-season training begins.
“We really support the vaccination program through the (Victorian) state government and the AFL,” he added. “Our playing list—men’s and women’s—we expect to be fully vaccinated as we return to training in the next couple of weeks.
Jones has played 161 games over 12 seasons, seven years with the Carlton Blues and five years with the Western Bulldogs.
“We wish Liam all the best for the next phase of his life,” Carlton FC said.
The announcement comes after AFWL player Deni Varnhagen was placed on her team’s inactive list for the upcoming season for the same reasons.
Varnhagen, who is also a registered nurse, also faces the possibility of losing her job in the health sector.
“We are all terrified. We love working; we just want to be back working,” she told reporters on Nov. 2 at a protest against vaccine mandates. “No one should be at threat of losing their jobs if they don’t enter a medical experiment.”