In huge and highly anticipated news, the AFL has announced that all players have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by early next year — otherwise, they won’t be allowed to play or train anymore.

The AFL announced in a statement on Thursday afternoon that all AFL and AFLW players and staff must be vaccinated by February 2022, with different deadlines, or three “stages”, depending on the state and Club.

The first stage is already in place for Victorians, since players and footy staff are authorised workers and must get vaccinated. The deadline is 22 October for the first dose, and 26 November for the second dose.

The second stage applies to the rest of AFLW players, since their next season starts in January, as well as players and staff from NSW Clubs (specifically, the Sydney Swans and Greater Western Sydney). The deadline is 19 November for the first jab, and 17 December for second jab.

The third stage requires all remaining AFL Players and AFL Football Program Staff (so, WA, SA and QLD) to get their first dose by 12 January 2022, and second dose by 18 February 2022.

Players who *don’t* get the jab (and don’t have a medical exemption) will be barred from training or playing — and staff won’t be able to come to work either.

According to the AFL’s statement, Clubs will be responsible for determining what actions to take against staff that don’t comply with the new policy.

If players don’t have a medical exemption but remain unvaccinated, they’ll be transferred to the inactive list and paid no less than 25% of their contracted salary, or part ways with AFL.

AFL Players Association boss Paul Marsh said that while vaccinations “are an individual decision”, it’s necessary to have all players jabbed due to various state border restrictions.

“It has [become] apparent in recent weeks that unvaccinated players will not be able to fulfil their contractual obligations due to various state border restrictions, and the new worker requirements in Victoria,” he said.

“In working through this policy with the AFL, our focus was to agree positions that provide players with clarity, appropriate timelines for making personal vaccination decisions, an ability to review the policy should government directions change, and financially support those who make the hard decisions to step away from their playing careers.”