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Fierce AFL critic Grant Thomas to walk away from footy

GRANT Thomas has walked away from football for the first time in more than a decade, resigning from Channel 9's Footy Classified and Wide World of Sports.

The former St Kilda coach said he was leaving to focus on business and corporate ventures.

He said Channel 9 managing director Jeff Browne expected the AFL to throw a party and for him to be invited, in reference to him frequently causing controversy this year.

Thomas reported allegations that Melbourne coach Mark Neeld had treated the Demons' indigenous players differently to white players, which were later proven incorrect.

The unnamed source of his online report was later revealed to be AFL community engagement officer Jason Mifsud, who understood a conversation he had with Thomas was private.

Thomas joined Footy Classified four years ago, replacing North Melbourne premiership great Glenn Archer. At first, there was palpable tension between he and fellow panelist, The Age's chief football writer Caroline Wilson.

However, their frosty relationship thawed while working on the panel, which they shared with Saturday Age columnist Garry Lyon and Craig Hutchison.

"I have a lot of admiration for Caroline," Thomas told The Age's Green Guide earlier this month. "She is a very learned football person, more than most in the industry. She takes a strong stance on things, which I greatly respect her for. We have come a long way."

It is understood former Essendon champion Matthew Lloyd, who signed with Channel 9 this year, will replace Thomas as a Footy Classified panelist.