GWS chief executive David Matthews in the hunt to replace Gillon McLachlan as AFL CEO

As the AFL looks for a replacement CEO, the chief executive of one its expansion clubs has put up his hand for the role, reports DANIEL CHERNY.

GWS Giants CEO David Matthews, seen here celebrating a win at the MCG with former coach Leon Cameron in 2019. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images
GWS Giants CEO David Matthews, seen here celebrating a win at the MCG with former coach Leon Cameron in 2019. Picture: Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images

Greater Western Sydney chief executive David Matthews has been interviewed as part of the search to find Gillon McLachlan’s replacement as AFL boss.

Matthews, who has been Giants chief since before the expansion club’s first AFL game, has accepted an invitation to be part of the process of candidates to succeed McLachlan, who announced his impending departure earlier this year.

GWS on Thursday confirmed Matthews’ involvement in the process, being conducted by the New York recruitment firm Spencer Stuart, and that Matthews had been interviewed. The club declined to comment further.

Formerly the general manager of national and international development at the AFL, Matthews has presided over the Giants’ first decade in the league, overseeing the run to the 2019 grand final. His involvement in the AFL search comes at a challenging time for GWS, who are still battling to solidify their position in the Sydney market, while also searching for a new coach after Leon Cameron’s resignation and bracing for a host of player exits during the upcoming trade period.

Sydney Swans CEO Tom Harley is another contender for the AFL chief executive role. Picture: John Feder/The Australian.
Sydney Swans CEO Tom Harley is another contender for the AFL chief executive role. Picture: John Feder/The Australian.

Matthews is one of at least two AFL club chiefs to have put their hands up as potential successors for McLachlan. Sydney boss Tom Harley has previously confirmed that he has been sounded out by headhunters and is going through the process.

Richmond chief Brendon Gale has long been earmarked as a potential AFL chief but has been tight-lipped on his intentions.

Senior AFL executives Andrew Dillon and Travis Auld are widely viewed as the most likely internal candidates to take over from McLachlan, who has been in his role since 2014.

McLachlan is set to depart at the end of the year. The AFL has not put a definitive time frame on when it would like to make a call on who will be the new chief.

Richmond CEO Brendon Gale has been touted as another serious contender for the AFL’s top job. Picture: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images
Richmond CEO Brendon Gale has been touted as another serious contender for the AFL’s top job. Picture: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Pressed on potential aspirations for the AFL job earlier this year, Matthews played a straight bat.

“I don’t think that’s one to answer at the moment,” Matthews told 3AW in April.

“I’m absolutely loving being at the Giants and really enjoyed this challenge and having left the AFL executive to take it on, it’s been something that you become incredibly passionate about. Not just from a club point of view, but also what we are trying to achieve in Sydney.

“Clearly Gillon has done an outstanding job and I think there will be a strong field and strong candidates. Clearly Brendon Gale is somebody who is one of the better leaders in the industry; he’d have to be strongly considered, others will be, too.

“I haven’t really turned my mind to it, too much, at this stage. We’ve got a hell of a lot of work to do here.”

Daniel Cherny
Daniel ChernyStaff writer

Daniel Cherny is a Melbourne sportswriter, focusing on AFL and cricket. Having started his career at Back Page Lead, Daniel spent eight years at The Age, during which time he covered Australian Test cricket tours of Bangladesh and the UAE, as well as the 2016 Rio Olympics. He has been recognised for both his AFL and cricket writing, including winning the Clinton Grybas Rising Star Award at the 2019 Australian Football Media Association Awards. He is also a compulsive Simpsons quoter.