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Eagles hope Darling, who is reluctant to vaccinate | Blue Mountains Gazette

West Coast coach Adam Simpson hasn’t given up on Jack Darling playing for the AFL club in 2022 but admits his hands are tied on the delicate matter.

Darling’s future remains uncertain after the star striker failed to meet the AFL’s vaccination mandate last month.

This means the 29-year-old is no longer able to train with the club or take part in matches.

And with Western Australia rolling out strict vaccination mandates from January 31, Darling is not allowed to enter a public gymnasium, given that he has not been double stung.

However, it is hoped Darling will opt for the Novavax COVID-19 protein vaccine instead, which has been approved for use in Australia and is expected to be available later in February.

If Darling receives his first dose on February 21 and his second dose three weeks later, he will be available for training and selection from mid-March.

West Coast are due to kick off their season at home against Gold Coast on March 20.

Darling is emerging as a crucial figure in the chances of becoming West Coast Premier, and Simpson is keeping his fingers crossed that the 2019 All-Australian is available this year.

“As a coach, we’re a lagging player and he’s a pretty big player, so hopefully that will work out,” Simpson told reporters on Tuesday.

“I’ve texted him several times, but there’s not much we can do at the moment.

“My plan is to get him back.

“There’s not much we can do. It’s between Jack and the club and what they need to get through this. My hands are a bit tied.

“We still care about Jack, none of that has changed.”

In a bizarre twist to the saga last month, Darling denied West Coat’s claim that he failed to meet the vaccine mandate.

Instead, he said he had been diagnosed with a work-related injury and was therefore on leave until further notice.

“It’s a really complicated situation,” Simpson said.

“There’s obviously the mandate in place with the government and then there’s what Jack is working on.

“I think it’s a bit unfair to talk about his personal situation from a medical point of view.

“But the rules are the rules in terms that you can’t work unless you’re vaccinated.”

Eagles skipper Luke Shuey remains a chance to feature in the first round despite another hamstring setback last week.

Shuey, who has been plagued with soft tissue injuries for the past two years, tweaked a hamstring last week, but scans cleared him of major damage.

The 31-year-old was able to return to racing duties on Monday and it is hoped he will be back in full training within weeks.

“No surgery is required. It’s a hamstring injury and with his history, it will take a little longer,” Simpson said.

“He was training very well and had a very good training block. He’s still quite optimistic and there’s still plenty of time until the first round.”

Australian Associated Press