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AFL to 'aggressively' urge vaccination so full crowds can return

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AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan is confident full crowds will return to Victoria at some point next season but recognises high COVID-19 vaccination rates will be crucial for that to happen, after the league relocated the grand final from the MCG for the second year in a row.

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McLachlan on Tuesday officially announced that Perth’s Optus Stadium would host this year’s grand final, after the Victorian government conceded a crowd at the MCG would be impossible amid the state’s coronavirus outbreak.

The South Australian Government put in a bid to host to host the event at Adelaide Oval but would only allow a maximum of 30,000 fans to attend – half of Optus Stadium’s maximum capacity.

The AFL is yet to launch a large-scale vaccination campaign, like the NRL’s from earlier this month, but McLachlan said it was communicating with players and staff and would “aggressively” encourage fans to get vaccinated.

Some players, including Richmond’s Tom Lynch and Hawthorn’s Chad Wingard, have already posted on social media about having their first shot.

“At the moment we’re going through a process where we are having a very comprehensive communication plan with all of our players – male and female – (and) our staff and we’re doing it in specific cohorts,” McLachlan said.

“When that’s finished and obviously we’ve got to have supply and get a rollout, for those who want to, I think you can feel comfortable that we’ll be aggressively pushing and advocating for everyone to get vaccinated.

“Because if you want to get back to here (Marvel Stadium with) full houses, if you want to save your local coffee shop or your local butcher or all these small businesses that are suffering, there is only one way out.

“This is really clear – there’s only one way out because it’s mandated by every state government and the federal government now, that’s the only way. The way out is vaccination, so that’s what we’ve got to do.”

McLachlan emphasised Victorians were “getting vaccinated and we’ve got a plan out of here” (the current situation), and towards attending the football again.

“We’ll get back there (to full crowds),” he said.

“I’d say to all Victorians frankly, not just football supporters, I’ve been living here, we know how hard it’s been and how much we miss going to Marvel and the MCG and frankly how much we miss community football.”

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