Carlton defender Liam Jones has sensationally quit AFL football, days after it was revealed he was expressing hesitancy at getting vaccinated against COVID-19.
Jones, 30, made the call to retire from senior football after 161 games despite emerging as an important defender in recent seasons for the Blues.
“I wish to announce my retirement from AFL football effective immediately,” Jones said in a statement.
“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.
“I hope that people respect my decision and privacy – neither myself or my management team will be making any further comment on the matter.”
Jones had been required to have had two doses of vaccine before December 6, when Carlton return to training.
The former Western Bulldog had a contract until the end of 2022.
Carlton head of football Brad Lloyd said the club had been in talks with Jones about his future but were unable to convince him to play on.
“We have been in constant dialogue with Liam in recent months and allowing him the time he needed to make an informed decision regarding his playing career,” Lloyd said.
“Liam confirmed with us today that he has made the decision to retire, and his wish for the specific reasons of that decision to be kept private – as a club, we will be respecting that.
“We thank Liam for his seven years of service to the Carlton Football Club, he earned every part of the 161 games he played, which included a complete positional transformation in the middle of his career, that could have only been possible with supreme dedication and hard work.”
“We wish Liam all the best for the next phase of his life.”
The move is a significant blow to Carlton’s defensive set-up under new coach Michael Voss, with Jones having missed just three games across the past two seasons.
The decision also looms as a major financial hit for Jones, who is understood to lose up to $500,000 for failing to suit up.
It follows Adelaide AFLW premiership player Deni Varnhagen’s call to sit out the upcoming season amid a refusal to get the jab.
Varnhagen, who works as a nurse, was moved to the Crows’ inactive list due to her anti-vaccination stance.