Melbourne Demons star Tom McDonald has sparked a furious backlash by angrily opposing Victorian Premier Dan Andrews’ Covid vaccine mandate.
The premiership-winning full forward – who is fully vaccinated himself – branded it ‘ethically wrong’ and ‘unnecessary’ when he spoke to the media on Tuesday.
He hit out after Adelaide Crows AFLW star – and intensive care unit nurse – Deni Varnhagen said she was refusing to get vaccinated, putting her career in jeopardy.
McDonald’s comments provoked an angry online debate, with his comments coming under fire from other players, other sport stars, and commentators.
But some fans agreed with his stance against vaccine mandates, including some who were themselves immunised.
Melbourne Demons star Tom McDonald seen here with wife Ruby has sparked a furious backlash after slamming Victorian Premier Dan Andrews for making vaccine jabs mandatory
‘It’s not a necessity, it’s been mandated on players and forced if you want to keep your job,’ McDonald, 29, said in the controversial question and answer session.
‘I’m vaccinated, and most players would’ve been, but to be honest I think it’s ethically wrong to force people into a medical procedure.
‘I think we would’ve got 90 per cent as a state anyway. I don’t see why we need to cause such issues and division by forcing people in many jobs where it’s probably not as necessary.
‘I understand aged care and health care and those sort of things but I feel it’s a bit heavy-handed at the moment.’
McDonald said he would be happy to play with teammates or against rivals who refused to get the jab.
‘No issue at all, that’s why you get vaccinated, you protect yourself,’ he added. ‘I don’t understand why we need force other players to,’ he said.
Premiership-winning full forward Tom McDonald, pictured here with wife Ruby, is fully vaccinated himself but branded it ‘ethically wrong’ and ‘unnecessary’
With the next AFL season still months away, the sport has yet to announce its vaccination policy.
But athletes in other codes and sports are required to be vaccinated to compete in Victoria, where most AFL teams are based.
Former Richmond great Matthew Richardson, 46, hit back at the Demons player on Twitter.
‘For someone with a close family member with a serious illness and compromised immune system, it staggers me that you wouldn’t get vaccinated,’ he posted.
‘It’s not just about you and your choice.’
Richardson’s post was applauded by Western Bulldogs veteran and 2008 Brownlow Medalist Adam Cooney, 36, who added: ‘This is the greatest thing anyone has ever tweeted.
‘It’s not just about you, think of others!’
Some vaccine-sceptic fans attacked Richardson for backing the rollout, although the vast majority supported his stance.
‘How much did you get paid to say this?’ posted one. ‘If you think this is about our health and trust the government, you’re kidding yourself.’
Another added: ‘If that family member gets vaccinated, why does it matter if someone else doesn’t?’
McDonald hit out after Adelaide Crows AFLW star – and intensive care unit nurse – Deni Varnhagen (pictured) said she was refusing to get vaccinated, putting her career in jeopardy
Richmond legend Matthew Richardson was among many high-profile sport personalities to criticise McDonald for his comments
AFLW and Hockeyroo veteran Georgie Parker tweeted at one anti-vaxxer: ‘I don’t let morons on my timeline. Get the vaccine and protect your community.
‘There are people who are much smarter than me and much, much, MUCH smarter than you out there who have done the research – listen to them.’
She also posted a video clip of Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner blasting anti-vaxxers in a famous press conference spray from last month.
‘I know I’m supposed to say I respect people’s choices and reasons for not getting vaccinated. I don’t. I don’t understand it. I don’t respect it,’ he said in September.
‘You don’t get to choose to burden our health system because you refuse to follow preventive health measures.
‘You don’t get to choose to be a spreader of a deadly virus in our community.’
Other leading voices in sport also hit back at McDonald’s comments.
‘You don’t get vaccinated just to protect yourself,’ journalist Max Laughton wrote. ‘You get it so EVERYONE is less likely to get sick.
‘You get it so anyone vaccinated who still has extra risk (like me) is less likely to get it. You get it because it’s so simple to do and incredibly safe.’
With the restart of the AFL season still months away, the sport has yet to announce its vaccination policy, but fans need to be double-vaccinated to enter stadiums
Sport reporter Daniel Cherny tweeted a list of department of health reasons for vaccination and added: ‘A reminder of why being vaccinated isn’t just about you and freedom of choice is a selfish argument,.
‘Also: holding to account public figures who put themselves ahead of public health is not unfair or unnecessary.’
Other fans backed McDonald – but hoped he would also support them in the fight against mandatory vaccination to be able to get into stadiums.
‘I hope you have this attitude towards the fans who attend,’ tweeted one.
‘Why should AFL place one mandate rule for the supporters who help pay your wage but not the same rule for the players.
‘Any mandate period should be stopped. How about you use your voice to tell the AFL this?’
McDonald replied: ‘We are on the same rules as you. As I said, I’m vaccinated. Just not for forcing people in order to be able to earn a living in most situations.’