St Kilda AFLW coach Nick Dal Santo says he and the club will continue to support unvaccinated star Georgia Patrikios.
The 20-year-old revealed her vaccination status in a statement on Tuesday, saying she will “continue to educate” herself before making a final decision on whether she will get the jab.
Patrikios, one of the AFLW’s brightest young stars, is a dual St Kilda best and fairest winner and was selected in the 2021 All-Australian team.
Dal Santo remains optimistic that Patrikios will represent the club in 2022 amid uncertainty over her playing future. All AFLW players must be vaccinated against COVID-19 to play next season.
“The first bit is from my perspective and my responsibilities, I support all of our players,” Dal Santo told SEN.
“My responsibility is to educate, support and then at the right time challenge the behaviours and the actions.
“That doesn’t matter if you’re Georgia Patrikios or you’re a new girl that’s finished high school, and we’ve got a couple of those that have only joined the group in the last couple of weeks.
“So it’s obviously a difficult situation and we can sit here and try and tiptoe around it.
“Is it disappointing that a superb player and a really good person at this stage isn’t playing football at our club? Absolutely it is.
“Are we going to support her no matter what? Yeah, we will. She put out the statement yesterday with the support of the football club and we’ve supported Georgia and her family and a handful of her really close friends that play with her.
“We’re supporting all of them to the best of our ability. We’re clearly working through it and maybe I’m a little bit naïve, but I’m still optimistic that Georgia gets to play football with us next year.”
Patrikios had taken a leave of absence prior to making her vaccination stance public. The midfielder remains on St Kilda’s active list.
Adelaide premiership player Deni Varnhagen was dropped to the club’s inactive roster because of her refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The 2022 AFLW season starts on January 6.