By Sam McClure
Sydney chief executive Tom Harley won’t be going to the AFL and has committed to stay at the Swans.
AFL chief executive officer-elect Andrew Dillon is on the lookout for a senior head of football as he puts together his new executive team, in what is expected to be an expanded role.
Earlier this month, Caroline Wilson reported in The Age that Richmond boss Brendon Gale – who was seen as the natural fit for the role after missing out on the top job to Dillon – wouldn’t be considering an approach from league headquarters, and instead would be staying at Punt Road, at least for the time being.
That has left Dillon with fewer options to turn to for the new role, including the likes of Western Bulldogs CEO Ameet Bains, his Fremantle counterpart Simon Garlick and the highly rated Harley.
But Harley has told this column he won’t be going anywhere, although he wouldn’t be drawn into whether a formal approach was made by the AFL.
“It’s just not for me to comment on whether approaches have been made,” Harley told The Scoop.
“I understand the interest in it and the commentary around it. I’m absolutely invested in what we’re doing here. I’ve been here for 14 years, I’ve got three kids. Stability and family is really important to me.”
Harley’s commitment to the Swans comes at no surprise to his chairman, Andrew Pridham, who told this column he and his CEO have been talking about long-term plans for the club.
“He’s definitely staying at Sydney,” Pridham said. “As far as I’m aware, he’s very happy at the Swans and every indication I’ve always had is he’s staying.”
A senior industry source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the issue is confidential, said Dillon was likely to have three direct reports as part of his executive team.
They will be the league’s head of commercial, the highly respected Kylie Rogers, a head of operations and a head of football.
Josh Mahoney, who recently announced his resignation as head of football at Essendon, is tipped to move to the AFL in a football-department role alongside Laura Kane, the acting football boss.
Bombers coach Brad Scott, who was in that position before joining the Bombers, paid tribute to Mahoney this week and linked him to a role at league headquarters.
“A surprise in a way, but not surprising in another [that he’s left],” Scott said at a media conference on Wednesday.
“It’s not surprising because I know in my position previously at the AFL that Josh has been a person of interest for people at the AFL for a long period of time.
“While Josh hasn’t been direct with me as to his next steps, it wouldn’t surprise me at all that the people at the AFL have been talking to him for some time.
“He’ll be a real loss for us, but the opportunity for us is that he’s informed us early enough that we have an opportunity to either restructure our football department or directly replace him.”
But how the restructure at the AFL ends up is anyone’s guess.
Will Avery fly back to his Tassie nest
With a Tasmanian team confirmed to come into the competition, all the talk has been about attracting the best Tasmanians to be at the forefront of the new club.
Richmond boss Gale has been linked to an administrative role, Brisbane Lions coach Chris Fagan has been asked several times about whether he’d consider being the first coach of the team, and we’re sure that retiring goalkicking machine Jack Riewoldt will be spoken to about an ambassadorial position at some point.
But the Tasmanian government is already well down the track with another local, Sandy Bay boy James Avery.
Formerly at the AFL, Avery has worked his way up at franchise club Greater Western Sydney to essentially be second in charge under chief executive officer Dave Matthews.
The Scoop can reveal that Avery and the state government are in discussions about him heading up Stadiums Tasmania, a new body that will oversee Blundstone Arena in Hobart, UTAS Stadium in Launceston and, most importantly, the (hopefully) new boutique stadium at Macquarie Point.
Despite receiving funding from the federal government, the Macquarie Point plan hit a snag in May when two MPs – Lara Alexander and John Tucker – resigned from the Liberal Party to sit as independents, after both airing concerns about the $700 million redevelopment.
The considered and highly intelligent Avery has built a strong reputation in football, and was recently approached by Hawthorn about their vacant chief executive position.
Two senior figures at AFL House who weren’t authorised to speak publicly on the topic feel Avery’s move home is a significant boost to getting the stadium over the line.
Here comes the Sun: Dimma’s return flight
We’ve done our best to keep you up to speed with Damien “Dimma” Hardwick’s pending move to Gold Coast. Terms have been agreed, according to two senior industry sources who would not speak publicly because an official announcement hasn’t been made. They said Hardwick was returning from his European holiday on Thursday.
The sources expect him to be unveiled next week as the Suns new coach. But there’s still no word on which Tigers may choose to follow him up there in the coming trade period.
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