Geelong chief Brian Cook has admitted he would ''think about'' the AFL CEO's position if he was approached, with Richmond boss Brendon Gale already understood to be a candidate for the role soon to be vacated by Andrew Demetriou.
While Demetriou's second-in-command, Gillon McLachlan, remains a strong favourite to step into the role as early as May, the AFL Commission remains determined to field a top-class line-up with contenders from league clubs as well as from outside the competition.
Cook on Friday received a ringing endorsement from his Geelong football operations boss, Neil Balme, who stated that the Cats chief executive would be an ''outstanding'' replacement for Demetriou and deserved to be a candidate, adding that he would not want to lose Cook from Geelong.
''To be really honest I haven't thought about it deeply,'' Cook said on Friday. ''I haven't been approached but if someone asked me I'd think about it.''
Cook, who oversaw West Coast's first two premierships and took over Geelong in 1999, steering that virtually broke club into an AFL powerhouse that has won three flags during his tenure, was considered a candidate for the AFL boss' job when Wayne Jackson resigned in 2003.
Gale again refused to be drawn on his interest in the AFL chief's role on Thursday night's The Footy Show but it is believed the AFL Commission has approached him via its corporate search team. Gale, like Demetriou, ran the AFL Players Association and has lifted a struggling Richmond into a debt-free, highly profitable operation with record membership and boasting a stand-alone VFL team playing home games at a reconstructed Punt Road Oval.
McLachlan, who remains Demetriou's preferred candidate, this week received the endorsement of Coles boss and St Kilda's director Ian McLeod, who had also been mooted for the job. He is understood to have strong support from key commissioners although there is also a push among the AFL board to test McLachlan against other strong candidates.
As Demetriou gradually removes himself from the job regarded as the most powerful in Australian sport, McLachlan has unofficially assumed a number of his CEO's responsibilities. He has been driving negotiations with the West Australian government over the establishment of the stadium alongside the Burswood Casino and has also played a kew role in the push for a co-tenancy agreement between St Kilda and Cricket Victoria at the Junction Oval.