Alistair Nicholson, who successfully helped Australian cricketers win a heated pay dispute, has been appointed chief executive of the AFL Coaches Association.
Nicholson will succeed Mark Brayshaw.
AFL fans know the former Melbourne defender best for his 110-game career, which included the 2000 grand final and ended in 2005.
Nicholson replaced Paul Marsh as head of the Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) in 2014, when he started approximately a month prior to Phillip Hughes’ shock death.
Nicholson’s biggest win at the ACA came in 2017, when he butted heads with James Sutherland and Kevin Roberts at Cricket Australia while ensuring players’ revenue-sharing pay model was retained.
The same Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) marked a landmark pay rise for female cricketers, who were included on the same agreement as their male counterparts.
Nicholson, who announced his resignation from the ACA in 2020, will start at the AFLCA in April.
“I’m very pleased to support the AFL coaching community, who play such a crucial role as leaders in the AFL system,” Nicholson said.
“Their welfare and wellbeing is fundamental as they guide hundreds of players in an industry that is both relentless and rewarding.
“I look forward to working with the members to advance their interests.”
Nicholson’s appointment comes at a critical time for his constituents, with last year’s football-department cuts ensuring fewer coaches are doing more work at clubs.
There has been recent concern about burnout and the pressure placed on coaches, especially after Rhyce Shaw’s departure from North Melbourne.
“We’ve had a big push on player mental health, which has finally got some momentum and seriousness to it over the last couple of years,” Nicholson told AAP.
“But we can’t dismiss or ignore – not just coaches but all staff at football clubs who are now doing more and more and more.”
AFLCA chairman Greg Nichols noted senior coaches made it clear at their AGM that they wanted a CEO with “advocacy, negotiation skills, high-performance leadership and strategic capability”.
“We strongly believe that Alistair fulfils the criteria,” Nichols said.