The AFL has confirmed Executive General Manager of Football Steve Hocking would leave the organisation to take up the role as Chief Executive Officer of the Geelong Cats Football Club, starting in October.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan today congratulated Mr Hocking on his appointment to the role and paid tribute to his work in reorganising the AFL Football department, the second tier VFL competition and under 18 NAB League competition, along with driving changes that have led to a more open and attractive brand of football.
Mr McLachlan said Mr Hocking had worked tirelessly in the role since joining the AFL from the Geelong Cats in October 2017. He said the EGM of Football role was a taxing position, particularly given the added responsibility of leading the game through the Covid-19 crisis and leading a model that had helped the game navigate two Covid-impacted seasons.
He said Mr Hocking had been instrumental in working with all 18 clubs to help them through the Covid-19 pandemic and continued to work closely with clubs, players, umpires and coaches to ensure the game was able to continue for members and supporters.
"It is a relentless job, but Steve has made an enormous contribution to the AFL and the wider AFL industry during his time in the role. He is a values-driven leader who has brought calm, confidence and consistency to the operations of football across the AFL, AFLW, VFL, VFLW and NAB Leagues and his approach is much-respected and valued by his colleagues and the wider industry," Mr McLachlan said.
"He has brought improvement to every aspect of the game, whether it's the growth of the NAB AFLW competition, the expansion of mental health and welfare initiatives across the clubs, rule changes that have opened up the game and made it more spectacular, the development and implementation of the ARC and the ongoing development of umpires.
"The football being played in this AFL season, and the earlier AFLW season, have each been exceptional and that is a testament to the work of Steve and his team.
"This is a great opportunity for Steve and the Geelong Cats for the next step in his career and he goes with our gratitude and blessings and I know he will continue to contribute to the industry in his role at clubland."
Mr Hocking paid tribute to his Football Operations team and said they had worked tirelessly to ensure that football continued throughout the pandemic.
"The game is well-served by so many people who work together to ensure it is the best it can. I can't praise enough their efforts of our Football Operations team and the wider AFL organisation in navigating the pandemic," Mr Hocking said.
"I also want to thank the clubs, the coaches, players and umpires and the wider industry for the way they have embraced the changes needed to ensure football continued for our members and supporters through this period. It has not been an easy time but the relationships across the industry mean our game is in good hands."
Mr Hocking will finish in his role at the AFL on Thursday, July 8, 2021 after completing a handover this week and would have time off before beginning his new role at Geelong following the conclusion of the AFL season.
Mr McLachlan said General Counsel and Executive General Manager of Game Development, Andrew Dillon, would assume the duties of the Executive GM of Football for the rest of the season.
He said the AFL would begin a process to determine Mr Hocking's replacement and that he hoped to announce a successor announced before the 2021 Toyota AFL Grand Final.