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Sep 18

AFL to change media strategy after departure of James Tonkin

The AFL’s media strategy will undergo a facelift with the impending departure of the league’s most senior communications adviser, James Tonkin.
Nanjing Night Net

The replacement for Tonkin, who has massaged the AFL’s message for the past three years, is expected to come from a soon-to-be launched nationwide search. His resignation comes as Gillon McLachlan sets about restructuring his corporate affairs department, in one of a series of gradual changes at the game’s head office.

Fairfax Media understands McLachlan is looking at reshaping the all-important game development portfolio, removing a significant portion to the AFL’s football operation headed by Mark Evans.

Grant Williams, who was seconded from the top job at AFL Victoria when McLachlan replaced Andrew Demetriou, was placed in a newly created senior role overlooking state leagues and lower-tier competitions across the country. He is expected to carry out that role with Evans under the football umbrella.

Until now, the entire game development portfolio has been overseen by Dorothy Hisgrove, the AFL executive in charge of customer, community and people. Hisgrove will still oversee a significant chunk of game development including indigenous and junior programs such as Auskick. She is also expected to oversee the AFL’s media team, adding corporate affairs to her portfolio.

While McLachlan is yet to unveil his predicted administrative restructure, the AFL’s austerity campaign has seen the departure of three-time Brisbane premiership player Chris Johnson.

The one-time Fitzroy defender had been the league’s diversity talent manager, helping remove the obstacles for young indigenous footballers in their bid to transition from junior grades to the TAC competition, state football and through to the AFL draft.

With the league choosing not to replace national indigenous manager Xavier Clarke earlier this year after his move into coaching, an AFL reshuffle of the game’s multicultural area looks imminent.

To date the only change to McLachlan’s executive has been the appointment of former Gold Coast boss Travis Auld to a newly created role dealing with stadiums and club relations. The prevailing view is that McLachlan’s 10-member executive team will be streamlined.

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