Former AFL footy operations boss locks himself out from running for league CEO position

Steve Hocking, Gillon McLachlan’s former right-hand man, has ruled out running for the vacant CEO position later this year.

Hocking, who was the head of the AFL’s football operations from 2017 to 2021, left the league midway through last season to return to Geelong as CEO.

He had a lot to say about what the game looks like now as one of the most influential people in the AFL house.

Hocking is not linked to the role, but has the credentials to be in the mix. However, the Cats chief says he is “not going anywhere”.

“No, look, I was very lucky with the role I had in the AFL, I’m very grateful for the time I spent there, I enjoyed it,” Hocking said. Dwayne’s world of SEN when asked if he would throw in his hat.

“I have really enjoyed my time (at the AFL), but I am very happy here at the Geelong football club.

“I can tell you I’m not going anywhere. I am here in Geelong, love what I do, enjoy what I do at (a) club and (I) have no intention of putting my cap on that club.

“It’s a big job, I think it will be very difficult to replace Gil, but I’m sure someone is looking forward to taking that responsibility.”

With McLachlan resigning from his top position with the AFL at the end of the year, numerous candidates have been put forward as potential successors.

Andrew Dillon and Travis Auld present themselves as the obvious internal candidates to succeed McLachlan, while club presidents Brendon Gale and Kylie Watson-Wheeler are also believed to be right in the mix, among others.

Hocking has no problem with which side the AFL committee chooses, but stressed that the successful candidate must be aware of the changing trends affecting the league.

“Look, I think where the game is going, you look at the broadcasting rights and all the emerging changes in society, coming out of COVID and so on… a lot has changed,” the former Cats player stated.

“From the point of view of the AFL, it’s in good hands. You have Richard Goyder (AFL chairman), there is a lot of care from a committee level and they will work through it the way they do, they will take their time and make the right choice.

‘I think you can go either way. A lot of people think you should know football, but I think the way the game is run is growing so fast… the skills are constantly changing.”

The league is said to have hired consultancy Spencer Stuart to find its next leader, with AFL chairman Richard Goyder in no doubt when an announcement will come.