Confidence-booster for Aliir. By Peter Blucher.
Aliir Aliir won a glowing endorsement from veteran teammate Heath Grundy after his second AFL game for the Sydney Swans on Sunday.
“Aliir played really well … he reads the ball well in the air … he looks pretty comfortable out there,“ said Grundy, who celebrated his 200th AFL game as the Swans beat Melbourne by 55 points at the SCG.
Aliir, who made his AFL debut against Brisbane at the Gabba in Round 6, was included in the Swans’ 25-man squad on Thursday night for the Round 13 clash but was expected to be an emergency.
But when regular defender Jeremy Laidler went down an injury on Friday the 21-year-old former Sudanese refugee made the most of his late call-up.
Certainly, he looked more at ease than he did on debut. He had 10 possessions, seven 1%ers, five tackles and one clearance. And, most importantly, he did his bit in a Sydney defence which held Melbourne to four goals in quagmire conditions after they’d averaged 102 points per game through the first 11 rounds.
Coincidentally, Aliir, who will be better suited to fine conditions, has played in torrential rain in both his AFL outings.
When Aliir might get a chance to play in the better conditions, especially with veteran defender Ted Richards having returned from a concussion layoff in the NEAFL on the weekend and Laidler not expected to be out for long.
Pressure will certainly be on for spots in a Sydney back six which statistically is the best in the competition, but at least Aliir has given coach John Longmire confidence to pick him knowing that he can do the job if required.
In other Queensland highlights from the first of the abbreviate draw rounds of the Toyota AFL premiership:
- Lee Spurr had a season-high 26 possessions and nine marks in Fremantle’s 17-point home win over Port Adelaide and a season-high 126 Champion Data points.
- Dayne Zorko had 31 possessions, 11 marks, eight tackles and 108 Champion Data points in Brisbane’s 49-point home loss to West Coast. It was the 12th time in his career he has topped 30 possessions and the 10th time this season he’s topped 100 ranking points.
- Corey Wagner had seven possessions (six contested possessions), one tackle and one clearance in a busy debut for North Melbourne against Hawthorn. He did some nice things with the ball and was outstanding in his forward line pressure in a nine-point loss that will forever be remembered for coach Brad Scott’s embarrassing and ultimately unfounded condemnation of the umpires.
- Eric Hipwood, the other half of Queensland’s Round 13 debutant double, also didn’t look out of place against West Coast. He had nine possessions (five contested possessions), two marks, three tackles, a goal and a goal assist via a thumping 60m kick which suggested his raking left foot will become a real weapon.
- Josh Wagner continued his impressive rookie season, collecting 19 possessions (six contested possessions) and four tackles for Melbourne against Sydney.
- Claye Beams returned from injury with a season-high 18 possessions for the Lions.
In the NEAFL, Matt Hammelmann continued his excellent form of recent weeks with 26 possessions and 16 marks in a key defensive role for the Lions Reserves.
And in the VFL, Sam Michael continued to push for a senior chance at Essendon with three goals against Werribee. He was ranked his side’s fifth best players. And Jake Spencer kicked four goals and was ranked fifth best for Casey against North Ballarat.