WESTERN Bulldogs defender Katy Herron will not play in the 2021 NAB AFLW season, electing to remain in Ireland due to family reasons in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Herron, 31, has a son Joshua (seven at the start of the year), who accompanied her in Australia for most of the 2020 season.
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The Donegal Gaelic footballer played all six games for the Dogs, averaging 6.8 disposals at an impressive 68 per cent efficiency, given it was her first season of Australian Football.
"It’s disappointing Katy won’t be joining us for the 2021 season, but we absolutely understand and support her decision to put her family first," Bulldogs general manager of women's footy Debbie Lee said.
"The club's intention from the outset has always been to support Katy on her AFLW journey over the long term, and we have provided her with extensive support during her time with us. We understand that this has been a very difficult decision for Katy, but she has made the right choice for her and her family.
"We wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn’t for COVID-19, but this is what the pandemic has presented for our players, our club and the industry. Whilst it is unfortunate, we are glad that the club was able to provide an opportunity for Katy to play our great sport.
"We thank Katy for her contribution to the Bulldogs and the impact she has had on our players, staff and AFLW program. We wish her and her family nothing but the best."
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Herron isn't the only Irish player to sit out the season, with St Kilda key back Clara Fitzpatrick running into a delay in her application for permanent residency.
Like the Saints, the Bulldogs will be able to sign a replacement player for Herron, given AFLW list sizes run to just 30.
Most Irish players are now in Australia either training or quarantining, but the Melbourne trio of Sinead Goldrick, Niamh McEvoy and Lauren Magee are still in Dublin, given their Gaelic side has qualified for the championship decider in a few weeks' time.