Sydney defender Aliir Aliir has opened up on his friendship with Majak Daw, how the North Melbourne player helped make his career possible and the difficult experience of being overseas when Daw suffered serious injuries last year.
Daw became the first Sudanese-born AFL footballer when he made his debut in 2013, with Aliir and Richmond’s Mabior Chol among those to follow in his footsteps.
In a wide-ranging interview with Fox Footy’s On the Mark, to air in full at 8.30pm Wednesday, Aliir said Daw probably wasn’t aware just how much he’d done for the Sudanese community as a whole.
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“He probably doesn’t realise what he’s done for us,” Aliir said on Fox Footy’s On the Mark.
“Not just myself and the other kids that got drafted but the whole of the Sudanese community.
“Because for someone to make it to the top level, that just drives other kids to want to get to that level
“I try to tell him as much as I can — I was like ‘man, I’m in the position I am because of you. Like, if you didn’t get picked up, nobody would’ve looked at us, man.’
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“For a kid from another country to make it at the top level, that made recruiters wanna look at other African and multicultural kids.
“So he doesn’t know how big a part he’s played in I guess my life, Mabior Chol’s life, the guys that are coming through now, around everything that I’m doing — you (Daw) made it happen for us.
“He definitely did. He definitely changed the game.”
Daw suffered serious injuries to his hips and pelvis after a fall in December last year.
At the time, Aliir was on holiday overseas and said he’d struggled with the news, feeling like he’d let down his friend.
“When everything all happened, I was over in Bali,” Aliir said.
“And you almost feel like ‘man, I’ve let a mate down here’, like ‘what could I have done?’ this and that.
“And being in a different country, I still remember, my mates the next day, I was just sort of blank, a bit. I think it was just a tough moment and I felt like I just couldn’t really do anything.’”
Daw made his return to footy via the VFL at the start of July, with Aliir among those on hand to watch him turn out for North Melbourne’s state league side.
Aliir said a happy coincidence in the AFL fixture — Sydney played in Melbourne the day before — allowed him to catch his friend’s comeback match.
“It just timed up perfectly when he was making his comeback because we were playing Essendon and he was playing the next day, Sunday,” Aliir said.
“And I was like ‘oh, beautiful, I’m staying back, I’ve got to come and watch this. I’ve just got to come and show the support to my mate here.’”
“I did (get to give him a hug), I did. He was just so stoked, he had a big smile on his face.”
WATCH ALIIR ALIIR’S FULL INTERVIEW ON ‘ON THE MARK’ AT 8.30PM WEDNESDAY ON FOX FOOTY