The appointment of Mark Evans has been well received by those wanting a "football" person in the position
It will get interesting if Franklin does leave the club and Evans has to deliver some bad news to his former employer about the compensation – or lack of it
IN A RECENT conversation, a veteran club chief executive laughed off a suggestion that the AFL was considering appointing its new football operations chief from within one of the clubs.
"I wouldn’t have thought they would be changing their approach now," he said. "They haven't employed a feisty footy guy for 15 years so why would they change stream now?"
Shortly after 11am on Wednesday, the aforementioned club chief executive gave a triumphant fist pump as news emerged that Hawthorn's longtime football lieutenant Mark Evans had been named the League's new general manager of football operations.
Similar joy would have been at every other club in the AFL.
Evans could not be described as 'feisty' in the manner of former AFL football operations chiefs such as Ian Collins, the late Alan Schwab, or even Andrew Demetriou who filled the role for several years before his elevation into the chief executive's position.
His approach is generally measured and reserved, but his body of work at Hawthorn over the last eight and a half years suggests he is less driven by process and consultation – a hallmark of his predecessor at the AFL, Adrian Anderson – and more about negotiation and compromise to achieve the desired result.
This is an obvious trait he shares with Demetriou and the clear no.2 in the AFL pecking order, Gillon McLachlan.
What makes Evans such a welcome appointment to the AFL is the experience he brings from having had frantic and often delicate discussions with the AFL from the other side of the fence.
Clubs will believe that they will now be able to have constructive dialogue with someone at headquarters who has walked in their shoes.
One of the early items on his agenda will be the issue of compensation for clubs losing players to free agency. Hawthorn lost premiership wingman Clinton Young to Collingwood at the end of last season and received only a third-round draft selection (no.66 overall) in exchange.
"I don't know if anyone could look you in the eye and say this is a just system," Evans said at the time, recoiling in shock at what the Hawks thought was poor compensation. "It is like we've been pick-pocketed and somebody has put an old $2 scratchy ticket back in our pocket."
Evans will also have executive responsibility for the AFL's three-strikes illicit drugs policy and will bring to bear his experience from 2010 when Travis Tuck became the first – and to date the only – player to record three strikes and be suspended from the game.
And you can bet several of his former fellow football managers will be quickly on the phone to vent about the findings of the match review panel. Evans has been there and will understand their pain.
Lest there be those who say that Evans only understands life at a wealthy and successful club, he started at the Hawks when they were second-bottom and an AFL laughing stock only months removed from the "line in the sand" debacle.
Before then he worked for the perennially cash-strapped Melbourne in communications and player development.
He leaves a huge void at Hawthorn, and while coach Alastair Clarkson would no doubt be delighted for Evans, he would be less than thrilled at having to find a new right-hand man on the eve of the season and with a stack of players, most notably superstar Lance Franklin, about to come out of contract.
On Wednesday Evans saw the funny side when asked about the status of the Franklin contract negotiations, which for Hawthorn people is almost a matter of life and death, but for him will not be such a concern anymore.
Once he fills the football hot-seat at AFL House, the affairs of Franklin will, at times, seem almost trivial, but it will get interesting if 'Buddy' does leave the club and Evans has to deliver some bad news to his former employer about the compensation – or lack of it – that they may receive in exchange.
Things might get feisty then.
Ashley Browne is a senior writer for AFL media. @afl_hashbrowne.