AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan has announce his resignation after eight years in charge, leaving fans and commentators stunned.
McLachlan announced his intentions to step down at the end of the 2022 season on Tuesday.
SPEAKING OUT: Ollie Wines breaks silence after worrying heart scare
'COMPLETELY ABSURD': AFL world erupts over 'disgraceful' drama
The CEO spoke to the media alongside AFL Commission Chairman Richard Goyder in Melbourne, saying he was proud of all he had achieved.
Veteran journalist Caroline Wilson revealed earlier on Tuesday that McLachlan had planned to resign before the Covid-19 pandemic changed his plans.
He instead decided to stick around and help the AFL through the difficult period.
“Gillon did the right thing not to step away during the pandemic,” Wilson told 3AW radio, saying he “stayed in longer than even he intended”.
McLachlan is keen to complete new women’s and men’s Collective Bargaining Agreements, new club-funding models and a fresh broadcast deal before departing.
"It's an honour and a privilege to serve this game - the best game in the world," McLachlan told a media conference on Tuesday.
"The responsibility has never been lost on me and I feel good that the game is in better shape now than when I took over, but with the scoreboard that will be for others to judge.
"I'm leaving now because it feels right, right for the AFL, right for me, right for my family.
"It's clearly more complicated than that, but actually in simple terms, it's not.
"... the AFL is in incredible shape on whatever metric you assess it."
AFL world reacts to Gillon McLachlan news
McLachlan has been in the top job since 2014.
He is reportedly keen to play a part in nominating his successor.
According to The Age, the AFL's football boss Andrew Dillon and executive Travis Auld, as well as Richmond CEO Brendon Gale, are all contenders.
Gale interviewed for the role eight years ago when McLachlan was appointed following the departure of Andrew Demetriou.
McLachlan started at the AFL more than 20 years ago as a strategy consultant, holding numerous roles including GM commercial operations and chief commercial officer.
He served as Demtroiou's right-hand man for a number of years before ascending to the top job.
Among the most significant achievements during McLachlan's time at the helm was the introduction of the AFLW competition, which will expand again to 18 teams for the upcoming season.
He informed Goyder over the weekend of his decision to step aside.
"From my point of view and the Commission's point of view it would be correct to say that we're not happy with that decision but we are completely supportive of it, if you get that sense," said Goyder.
"Gill has always said to me that he wanted to go at the top of his game, at the time of his choosing and when the AFL was in as good a shape as it can be.
"And I think that's fair play and the Commission thinks that's fair play and certainly fair for him and his family.
"He's done an outstanding job."
AFL fans and commentators reacted to the news on social media.
Gillon McLachlan will step down at the end of the season. Not hard to pick the highlight of his reign. pic.twitter.com/8o31GHogqi
— Titus O'Reily (@TitusOReily) April 12, 2022
Wonder who the best candidate for his successor is?? I like Gill
— Johnny Wareham (@JohnnyWareham) April 12, 2022
Gil has done an amazing job. Leaves the AFL in a much better place than when he took over
— DEBDEB (@DebDeb41) April 12, 2022
Wow didn’t see that one coming good luck for whatever you do in the future Gill
— Luke Amott😈 #MelbourneDemons2022 (@luke_amott) April 12, 2022
Has he left the game in a better place than he found it? Not sure.
— The Pretty Prawn (@trendyprawn) April 12, 2022
So Gillon Mclachlan is steeping down as AFL CEO. Fair enough. He's don't his time. Did an amazing job in keeping the league running through the pandemic. And he wasn't a crook like the last guy. Thanks Gill #AFL
— Matt (@Mattys123) April 12, 2022
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.