When players find themselves unable to play in the upcoming game, they can seek comfort in another teammate receiving the opportunity to contribute to their club’s success in their place.
At least that’s the mindset Ted Richards has as he prepares for the debut of the very man he’s been mentoring in the last couple of years, Aliir Aliir.
But Richards – coming off arguably a career-best match on the weekend – won’t be running out with his young apprentice after receiving surgery earlier in the week for a fractured cheekbone.
Aliir will replace Richards in the Sydney team that travels to the Gabba to take on the Lions this weekend – only a 30 minute car trip from one of Aliir’s former clubs, the Aspley Hornets.
“I think his standout attribute is his ability to read the play. he knows when it’s time to play tight, defend and beat his man and when to back his judgement and come off his opponent to help out others” – Ted Richards.
“There’s always a positive to someone’s misfortune in this game and, in this case, missing a game gives an opportunity to someone else,” Richards tells Aflplayers.com.au.
“We found out around midday today that he was going to play this weekend and I can remember seeing his face – you could see that excitement and surprise, it was a great moment.”
Listed as 193cm and 94kg, Aliir seems a natural long-term replacement for the 33-year-old Richards in the key defensive post.
Like his mentor, Aliir shares similar unassuming traits that will fit in nicely with the Swans’ line-up, according to the premiership-winning Swan.
“I think his standout attribute is his ability to read the play. It’s a strength of his, he knows when it’s time to play tight, defend and beat his man and when to back his judgement and come off his opponent to help out others,” Richards says.
“What’s been a standout in his reserve games this year is his one-percenters, intercept marks, tackles, spoils and things that aren’t necessarily spoken about in mainstream media but are attributes that good defenders have.
“Aliir has been excelling in those areas for quite a while which is why he’s debuting on the weekend. He’s consistently punching out these high one-percent numbers at NEAFL level.
“He’s had this great ability to consistently improve each week. He’s been going about it with no fuss and it’s great he’s been recognised by the match committee.”
The 21-year-old’s background contributes to the hype around his imminent AFL debut.
Born in a refugee camp in Kenya to Sudanese parents, Aliir fled Africa with his family at the age of seven before settling in Brisbane and then Perth where he fell in-love with the game of Australian Rules after a friend invited him to train with his club.
After beginning as a ruckman, Aliir eventually transitioned into a defender who plays the game with little fanfare.
Unsurprisingly, Richards says Aliir carries himself in a similar fashion away from the field.
“He’s very reserved. He loves his basketball and EPL but he’s pretty comfortable keeping to himself off the field – he’s far from a Dan Hannebery.”