Andrew Demetriou's departure from the AFL's top job has moved significantly closer as the interview process has begun to unearth his replacement.
Reports would suggest the AFL Commission will not need to dig too deep given that Demetriou's right-hand man, Gillon McLachlan, remains the hot favourite and has been doing most of the heavy lifting for some time.
But various external candidates have emerged and the commission's headhunters will justify their six-figure pay packet as they produce individuals to test McLachlan.
Fairfax Media understands at least three club chiefs - Brendon Gale (Richmond), Brian Cook (Geelong) and Stuart Fox (Hawthorn) - have also been sounded out, with two of those believed to have agreed to preliminary interviews. Those interviews began last week.
Demetriou, as he loosens his tie and plots his future and potentially the European summer, has made no secret of his support for McLachlan, who most in the industry believe is over the line. He has been heavily involved in pretty much every major media and stadium deal of the past decade.
That McLachlan's reputation was hurt by the negotiated settlements with Melbourne (for tanking) and Essendon (for its dangerous and allegedly illegal drug program), then the commission too is responsible and failed dismally to show unity and leadership when the game needed it most.
Should those commissioners still harbour reservations about such a smooth handover - and several AFL board members had their doubts about appointing Demetriou's No. 2 largely because they backed cultural change - then they face the prospect of losing McLachlan after convincing him 18 months ago not to move into the NRL's top job.
Meanwhile, the game, which is being hit from all sides, remains in a holding pattern. Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick appears to have abstained completely from any public leadership role, while Demetriou is on the way out and could be gone next month should McLachlan win his job.
Surely the competition bosses will not make McLachlan wait four months as they did Demetriou in 2003 after Wayne Jackson resigned. Rarely in recent times has the game required a strong hand when so many bosses are working with hands behind their backs.
McLachlan in turn is keeping his head down in public terms as he goes through the process. He seems unlikely to appear in public again after last week's attempts to appease the Tasmanian football factions made headlines and surprised Hawthorn and North Melbourne.
This leaves football operations chief Mark Evans as the game's most credible public leader as he dodges bullets from a long queue of football legends - led by Kevin Bartlett, coaches and umpire bashers. Evans will be the most senior AFL executive in New Zealand on Anzac Day when that game's predicted poor crowd eventuates and the game cops it again.
On Monday, the AFL's commercial boss, Darren Birch, panicked about potential queues outside the MCG - not a poor attendance as The Age reported on Wednesday - before the Hawthorn-Geelong game. In allowing members in at no extra cost he angered those who had paid for reserved seats.
You have to wonder who was steering the ship on Monday morning, and it was interesting that the largely unknown Birch was put forward on Wednesday to face the public fallout when usually Demetriou or McLachlan would have stepped up.
The public have every right to feel disenchanted about heavy price rises to big games, about football as a spectacle, about the strange soft start to the season, Essendon's past treatment of its players and the AFL's botched handling of that scandal.
And football supporters too must be wondering who is steering the ship through such stormy and uncharted seas.