What next for exiled Eagle Jack Darling amid COVID vaccine drama

Headshot of Catherine Healey
Catherine HealeyThe West Australian
VideoThe football career of West Coast Eagles star Jack Darling is in serious doubt, after the premiership forward failed to meet the AFL's vaccine mandate.

Will we see Jack Darling play again for West Coast?

The club believes it could happen, despite the star “clearing out his locker” this week.

There’s a number of scenarios that need to play out before any return to the Eagles, with reports the earliest comeback would be May — if Darling is holding out for the new protein-based Novavax vaccine, as suggested by 7NEWS.

There’s also rumours Darling is set to apply for a medical exemption from the AFL in regards to the COVID vaccine.

But that process is expected to be lengthy.

Brisbane confirmed Cam Ellis-Yolmen applied for the medical exemption but was denied by the AFL. He is now on the Lions’ inactive list for 2022 after failing to meet the code’s COVID mandate.

“My understanding is (Darling’s) hoping to get a medical exemption. The AFL does offer medical exemptions to players if they can prove that they are not able to receive a vaccine,” 7Sport’s Ryan Daniels said on SportsDay.

“Jack Darling is probably looking at every avenue he can to continue playing.

“For (the medical exemption) to work, he can’t just go down the road to the GP and get them to sign a certificate.

“He would have to present to the AFL, it has to be an AFL-approved doctor, usually a club-approved doctor and he’d have to go for an examination to prove he is medically unfit to receive the vaccine.”

Commentator Dwayne Russell warned medical exemptions were “not there for anti-vaxxers” but admitted he did not know Darling’s personal case

The Novavax vaccine recently received provisional Therapeutic Goods Australia approval.
Camera IconThe Novavax vaccine recently received provisional Therapeutic Goods Australia approval. Credit: Alastair Grant/AP

Daniels said another option for Darling is the Novavax vaccine, which recently received provisional Therapeutic Goods Australia approval.

“In the short term, even if receives the Novavax vaccine, you’re looking at absolute best case scenario that he’d be playing May/June by the time all these things become accessible,” Daniels warned.

The TGA issued a statement on Thursday, confirming Novavax would be made available in Australia.

“Novavax and the Australian government announced an advance purchase agreement for 51 million doses of Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine in January 2021. The first shipment to Australia of the Novavax vaccine is expected in the coming month,” the statement read.

“This is the first protein COVID-19 vaccine to receive regulatory approval in Australia.”

As it stands, Darling is unable to train or play at West Coast, nor can he use the club’s Lathlain facilities until he receives a COVID vaccine.

Without a double vaccine dose, he will soon be unable to use gymnasium facilities in WA.

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