AFL 2022: Liam Jones returns to Western Bulldogs after sitting out of the AFL this year for vaccine-related reasons

Liam Jones’ unlikely homecoming is complete.

The 31-year-old returns to the Western Bulldogs eight years after the last of his 66 games for the club, agreeing to a three-year deal as an unrestricted free agent.

Jones was a talented but erratic forward in his previous life as a Bulldog – kicking 68 goals – but this time will be a key addition down the other end, where he resurrected his career for Carlton in 2017 before stepping away from the AFL after refusing to abide by the league’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate.

“I’m just so grateful to have the opportunity to play at the highest level again,” Jones said.

“This Club gave me a chance all those years ago and I’m excited by the prospect of returning and helping this group continue to strive for success.”

“Having started my career at the Club, I feel a sense of belonging in the red, white and blue and can’t wait to meet all the players and staff over the coming weeks.

“I learnt plenty from my time at Carlton and hopefully I can bring some of that knowledge and experience over to the Dogs to help support the great players in our back half.”

Dogs list boss Sam Power said they targeted Jones to bolster their defensive stocks but also for his experience.

Dogs list boss Sam Power said they targeted Jones to bolster their defensive stocks but also for his experience.

“Not only what Liam can bring on-field to our defensive stocks but also the maturity and experience he can bring to our group which is still relatively quite young.”

The AFL’s softening of it’s vaccine stance in July, in line with government guidelines, swung open the door for Jones to play again at the highest level, after he spent much of the year playing for QAFL team Palm Beach Currumbin.

The Blues opted not to pursue him, after he played 95 matches there across seven seasons, but lobbied the league for compensation, which led to him being classified as an unrestricted free agent.

They received a third-round compensation pick for ‘losing’ Jones that currently sits at No.49.

sport, afl, news, australia, carlton blues, tas news, western bulldogs, afl 2022: liam jones returns to western bulldogs after sitting out of the afl this year for vaccine-related reasons

Liam Jones played for Palm Beach Currumbin in the QAFL this year. Glenn Hampson Credit: News Corp Australia

Jones nominated the Bulldogs in recent weeks but they emerged well before that as the frontrunner for his services.

He will slot straight into Luke Beveridge’s defensive set-up, a year after the Dogs traded for Hawthorn swingman Tim O’Brien to add extra height and marking power to the backline.

Alex Keath, Ryan Gardner and Zaine Cordy are their other main tall defensive options, although the latter is exploring his options as an unrestricted free agent.

Jones lost only 11.8 per cent of his defensive one-on-one contests last year, which was the stingiest rate among all key defenders who played more than seven games.

His 4.2 intercept marks per game also led the AFL.

The Bulldogs still hope to convince Fremantle to trade contracted big man Rory Lobb to them and are also seeking appropriate value in a trade that will see Josh Dunkley join Brisbane.

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