By Beth Newman
When Aliir Aliir was selected to go to Sydney at pick no. 44 in last night’s National Draft, Queenslanders had plenty of reason to smile.
A Queensland U18 representative last year, before moving to Western Australia to be closer to family, Aliir’s selection was a very pleasant surprise for AFL Talent QLD and NSW/ACT Academies Manager, Mark Browning.
Browning said the selection was the culmination of a strong focus on developing talent from diverse backgrounds.
“ You can have little wins, but you’ve got to celebrate a massive winfor what we’re trying to do as an organisation,” he said.
“ For Aliir to get there tonight, it’s like a culmination of three years’ work.”
With AFL Queensland hosting the Unity Cup last weekend, Browning said Kenyan-born Aliir would prove to be a strong inspiration for a number of kids from diverse backgrounds.
“It’s massive,” Browning said.
“When you think he’s gone from Brisbane to Perth and now he’s in Sydney in the space of 12 months, it’s an absolute rollercoaster.”
“It has that domino effect.”
Aliir was selected after being overlooked in the 2012 draft after being invited to the national combine, but an extra year in senior footy has served him well.
Browning said the Swans’ renowned culture would be a great environment for Aliir to enter into at AFL level.
“I’m sure he’d be very excited to be all of a sudden playing with Buddy and Adam Goodes and all those guys,” he said,
“He’s still got a lot of improvement, it’s just down to how hard he works.
“The beauty of the Swans’ culture is there’s no second guessing, it’s pretty black and white.”
“The structure will be very good for Aliir.”
The Swans’ selection was a great send-off for Queensland Talent Manager, Bob Batty, who is retiring after 26 years with the AFL.
Browning said the AFL Queensland Talent department would take inspiration from Tasmania, who had four players selected this year, going into 2014 and beyond.
“That proves if you get your program right, you can get the results,” he said.
The recent appointment of a full-time high performance coach, in Adrian Fletcher, and increasing the numbers of TAC Cup games played by Queensland, would hold the state’s talent in good stead.
“We want to take things to another level, so having a full-time resource like Adrian will be a massive bonus,” he said.
Browning said he still held high hopes for next Wednesday’s rookie draft, tipping a potential four Queenslanders will get the nod.
“I’d be very surprised if Isaac Conway, Archie Smith, Jared Ellis and maybe Michael Hutchinson, didn’t get picked up,” he said.