Geelong have started their search for their first new chief executive officer in more than two decades after Brian Cook’s decision to step away at the end of this year.
Cook, whose future was confirmed in February, has outlasted some of the biggest names in football since his appointment in 1999.
7NEWS.com.au can now reveal three high-profile names who have been mooted to fill his shoes in the AFL club’s top job.
One source says James Sutherland will get it.
The former CEO of Cricket Australia, Sutherland is currently Golf Australia CEO and sits on the Cats’ board.
However, two other well-placed sources have said Sutherland, and indeed any name, is premature.
The Geelong executive was told last week the formal process had only just started.
But Justin Andrews is another high-profile name linked to the role.
Andrews is a surf coast export who has made it big on the global executive stage, currently the senior vice president at Oakley sunglasses in the US.
It’s been suggested Andrews could relocate back to the region with his family, if the right opportunity presented.
Andrews is also a former director of the Cats, appointed to the board in 2013 when he was in charge of Oakley’s South Pacific operations.
Steve Hocking is another potential choice who could return to the club to replace the highly decorated Cook.
Hocking made a name for himself as Geelong’s highly successful football boss and still has strong relationships at the club since moving on to the AFL.
Football boss at league headquarters since 2017, Hocking’s bold rule changes are being widely applauded.
The Cats have appointed head-hunter Egon Zehnder and plan to make an appointment by July.
Cook, who does not hold a formal role in the process to appoint his successor, will remain in the CEO role until December, when his replacement will take over.
The appointment is a major decision for Geelong’s board ahead of a significant changing of the guard.
While Cook’s retirement has been carefully planned and orderly, the club’s highly influential Colin Carter recently retired too.
Cook’s departure represents the end of a 21-year era – combined with Carter’s exit last year, the Cats are losing two figures with major clout at the AFL.
Carter, a former AFL commissioner, is currently preparing a report for the league on Tasmania’s business case for an AFL club.
His findings will have a major influence over whether the AFL commission will give the green light for Tasmania to become the league’s 19th team.
Hawthorn and particularly North Melbourne are also sweating on the outcome – both are in limbo, holding lucrative deals with the Apple Isle that expire this year.
Meanwhile, sources have also linked Cook to one of two vacancies on the AFL commission.
Andrew Ireland, who spent more than 15 years at the Sydney Swans before retiring as the club’s chief executive in 2018, and former Western Bulldogs president Peter Gordon have also been mentioned as potential appointments.