Candidates to replace Gillon McLachlan as CEO, Travis Auld, Andrew Dillon, Brendon Gale

AFL Commission chair Richard Goyder says the search for Gillon McLachlan’s successor will begin this week following the AFL chief executive’s decision to step down at the season’s end.

Goyder and McLachlan fronted the media on Tuesday morning to confirm the latter would move on from his position after over 20 years at the AFL, including eight as chief executive.

Goyder confirmed the AFL would appoint an external search firm in the coming days to help with the process, but would not commit to a timeline on finding a replacement for McLachlan.

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McLachlan wouldn’t be drawn on what type of person would replace him, but multiple reports have indicated he’ll have a say during the process to find his replacement.

“Richard and the Commission have got to make a decision in what they see is the right future,” McLachlan told reporters.

“All I know is that there are a number of internal candidates, male and female, and I’m thrilled about that. There are a number of people that I’m hopeful will apply and any of them who get it will do a great job in my view. “

Goyder lauds McLachlan’s AFL CEO tenure | 07:07

Asked if the past two Covid-interrupted seasons would make it harder for the AFL to appoint someone externally, Goyder said: “I don’t think it’s the right time to speculate.

“All I’d say is… I feel really good about the quality of people we’ve got within the AFL system right now, in terms of AFL House and clubs. I feel we’ve got in that group of people who are more than capable of taking over from Gill and we’ll go through a process and there may well be others that we may well have a look at.

“I feel very confident that in due course an appointment will be made which will be a really strong appointment for the AFL.” highlights the early front-runners to be the next AFL chief executive.

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AFL 360 host Gerard Whateley told his SEN program on Tuesday that there was “no man more qualified in clubland to be the next CEO of the league” than Gale. After playing 244 AFL games with the Tigers from 1990 to 2001, Gale practiced law with a leading Australian commercial law firm prior to serving as chief executive of the AFL Players’ Association. He was then appointed as Richmond’s chief executive in August 2009. Multiple reports linked Gale with a run for the top AFL job when it was last vacant in 2014 – a McLachlan vacancy ultimately filled.


There were suggestions last year the AFL was beginning to position Auld as McLachlan’s successor. Auld is the AFL’s executive general manager of finance, clubs and broadcasting, with the Marvel Stadium and Docklands Precinct redevelopment, as well as other AFL major projects, also included in his portfolio. It’s a portfolio that’s grown significantly since he arrived at AFL headquarters via clubland. Auld joined Essendon in its finance department in 1996, progressing through the club’s administration to become Chief Operating Officer. In 2009, he was appointed as the Gold Coast Suns’ chief executive before joining the AFL in 2014. Would have very strong relationships at the club level.


The former Australia Post chief executive emerged as a potential candidate for McLachlan’s role last year. Holgate is now the boss of Toll Logistics firm Global Express and is a member of Collingwood’s board. She would be a strong candidate to be anointed as the AFL’s first female chief executive.

Member of the AFL executive Andrew Dillon. Picture: Adam TraffordSource: Getty Images


The AFL’s legal boss turned executive general manager of football, Dillon is highly regarded internally at the AFL since joining the league in August 2000 as a Legal Counsel. Dillon has worked his way up the chain, from legal and business affairs manager and general manager of legal, integrity and compliance to the responsibility of game development then, in September last year, officially becoming executive general manager of football operations, legal and integrity. Right in the mix.


A bit of a bolter after joining the AFL’s executive as general manager of customer and commercial. Described on her AFL profile as “one of Australia’s leading commercial and media executives” following her 17-year tenure at Channel 10, as well as a stint at Mamamia. Since joining the AFL, Rogers has overseen membership, ticketing, events, corporate hospitality and sponsorship.


A lifelong Bulldogs supporter, Watson-Wheeler became the second female club president in the AFL – after Richmond’s Peggy O’Neal – when she was unanimously voted in by the Bulldogs’ directors at a board meeting in late 2020. Watson-Wheeler, who’s been a board member since late 2013 and served as the Bulldogs’ vice-president for four years, is the Australia and New Zealand managing director of the Walt Disney Company.


We may have gotten a sneak peek of the AFL CEO handover in 2021 without realizing when Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka stood alongside Gillon McLachlan to announce a new five-year deal with the code. Hrdlicka’s time as Virgin Australia CEO began in late 2020. Prior to that, she was CEO of the Jetstar Group between 2012 and 2017 and the company nearly doubled its profits during her tenure. An 18-month stint as CEO of A2 Milk followed, during which the company’s share price rose by 40 per cent before she left at the end of 2019. Additionally, Hrdlicka became the first female chair of Tennis Australia and was re-elected unopposed in 2019 for an additional three years.


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