It was Sydney’s 21-gamer Aliir Aliir that took the Swans to victory with a match-winning goal, amongst a gruelling 31-goal shootout that left the Roos defeated by six points on Sunday.
But the real impact of Sunday’s arm-wrestle was the unbelievable duel that set Etihad alight; South Sudanese pair Majak Daw and Aliir Aliir, in a fierce yet friendly contest.
The pulsating battle proved an important reflection upon the significance of Sudanese representation in the AFL and a hopeful invitation extended to Sudanese youth by the pair to pursue football.
Aliir, born in a Kenyan refugee-camp to parents fleeing a war-torn South Sudan, said he and Daw had a moment to reflect on their humble origins.
“He set the tone for myself as a young kid playing under 18’s, (while) he was the first Sudanese (player) to make it on an AFL list, I was looking up to him,” Aliir told afl.com.au.
“He was able to contact me and give me advice and things like that and what I need to work on. I was lucky enough to share the field with him.”
Post-match, Daw was glowing with praise for Aliir and reflected upon just how many opportunities the AFL can bring for anybody; regardless of origin.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Aliir. Fellow South Sudanese guys, we’re pretty close mates and when I lined up on him, I suppose I’m a competitive person and he’s a competitive person,” Daw expressed.
“We both want to do well for our clubs, but at the same time we know the role we play for our community.
“I think if there were any African kids watching out there today, that was an example of it doesn’t matter where you come from, you can play at the highest level, you can do anything in this country.”
Swans defender Aliir gathered praise from four-time premiership legend Luke Hodge after his impressively tactical game.
“This the strength of Aliir Aliir. You put him at centre half-back and he can run … you chuck him in the ruck and he can do exactly the same,” Hodge told Channel 7.
“He’s been able to run, link up and his decision-making to either go straight down the middle or switch has been really good.”
After starting the final term loose in defence, Aliir advanced the game’s dying stages with scores level to kick his first career goal, a goal Aliir said left him speechless.
“We were down one (player) and I thought I had to push myself forward if we were going to have a chance to win,” he said.
“The ball, lucky enough fell in my hand and I was able to kick it.”
Champion forward Wayne Carey was respectively teeming with praise for Daw, saying his skills as a player have improved significantly.
“It’s really dependent on match-ups where Majak plays. He looks like he’s reading when to lead, his understanding of the forward craft has improved,” Carey told Triple M.
The Swans may have taken the rightful victory yesterday; but, after this game, it’s clear there were two winners.