Caroline Wilson fires up over 'insulting' AFL Gather Round joke

Things got heated between the co-hosts on the set of Channel Nine's AFL program.

Pictured left to right, Caroline Wilson and Footy Classified co-host Craig Hutchison.
Caroline Wilson clashed with Footy Classified co-host Craig Hutchison over a joke from AFL Commission chair Richard Goyder. Pic: Ch9

AFL journalist Caroline Wilson has taken aim at Footy Classified co-host Craig Hutchison after expressing her disgust over a joke from AFL Commission chair Richard Goyder at last Wednesday's Gather Round launch. The inaugural round, borrowing from the NRL's Magic Round concept, had all 18 teams playing in Adelaide and the Adelaide Hills over four days and was deemed an overwhelming success for the sport and the state.

Before a ball was even kicked though, Goyder caused a stir after making a joke about AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan's eventual successor. The AFL boss was ready to step down from his post at the end of 2022 until the Hawthorn racism scandal and the emergence of the Gather Round initiative prompted him to continue the role into 2023.

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There have been reports to suggest McLachlan would step down after seeing out the inaugural Gather Round but the AFL appears no closer to naming his successor after the conclusion of the South Australian spectacle. Goyder attempted to make light of the uncertainty around the AFL CEO position at last week's Gather Round launch, but Wilson insists his joke was in "poor taste" and "insulting" to the candidates in the running for the position.

“Richard Goyder, in that time honoured tradition of AFL bosses, tried to make a joke at the Gather Round launch last Wednesday night about a key administrative failing,” Wilson said on Monday night's Footy Classified program on Channel Nine. “In this case, his failure to appoint a successor for the man he reveres, Gillon McLachlan, and his cavalier treatment of the five other candidates for the top job.

“The problem was, it wasn’t funny. Waxing lyrical about the South Australian Premier, his good looks, and his amateur footy background, Goyder joked that Peter Malinauskas was not unlike Gillon McLachlan, and maybe he should be the next AFL CEO.

“Frankly, this was insulting. Certainly, to four of the five candidates who were in the room when he made that joke, all of whom have spent the best part of the last year devoting themselves for going for the job, and all of whom have had their brands tarnished by Richard Goyder’s performance. Not funny, Richard.”

Pictured left to right, AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan and AFL Commission chair Richard Goyder.
AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan (left) and AFL Commission chair Richard Goyder chat during a Round 5 match. Pic: Getty (Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Co-hosts clash over AFL CEO joke

Hutchison defended Goyder for what he described as a "funny", throw-away comment and said his co-host was the only one who appeared to take it seriously. “I thought the Richard Goyder joke was funny,” Hutchison said. “Someone had to break the ice on the situation and it was a bit of a laugh. No one took it seriously, maybe other than you (Caroline).”

That remark only fired up Wilson more, with the veteran journalist turning on her co-host, who she accused of being "completely disingenuous".

"I’m prepared to cop some of your complete phony behaviour, but you were there, I was there,” Wilson responded. “So many club bosses were disgusted by that joke, and you know they were, so don’t pretend you don’t know that.

“I’m not going to put up with it. I’m not going to cop that, Craig! I’m not going to cop it. “Many, many club bosses, all the ones I spoke to thought it was in really poor taste. Don’t be disingenuous.”

Hutchison admitted the process to identify McLachlan's successor "has been clumsy" and gone on for "too long" but maintained that Goyder's joke was "not the end of the world.” However, Wilson argued that it tarnished the reputations of all the candidates for the AFL CEO role - many of whom were present at the Gather Round launch when the joke was made.

“No one’s denying it was a joke, it wasn’t funny. It was in poor taste,” Wilson added. “And you agreed that all those candidates have had their brands tarnished by what’s gone on. Don’t be disingenuous, Craig.”

Panelist and Essendon legend Matthew Lloyd then described the AFL CEO process as a “dog’s breakfast”, prompting Wilson to take another shot at Hutchison, who asked that she merely respect his difference of opinion on the matter. “He said a joke, Caro. I have a different view to you, I hear yours. Hopefully at some point you can respect mine,” Hutchison said.

Wilson went on to claim that the AFL Commission was still “divided” over who should replace McLachlan as AFL CEO. She says Kylie Watson-Wheeler is one of the favourites for the position, while Andrew Dillon, Tigers boss Brendon Gale, and AFL executives Travis Auld and Kylie Rogers are also in the mix.

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