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Sudanese refugee Aliir makes draft history

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Aliir Aliir in action  during Day 3 of the 2012 NAB AFL Draft Combine at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne. (Photo: Michael Willson/AFL Media)
Aliir Aliir in action during the 2012 draft combine
We took him because we think he's got the potential to turn in to a key defender for us and we need that dramatically on our list
Kinnear Beatson
THE SYDNEY Swans did not select Aliir Aliir with pick 44 in Thursday night's NAB AFL Draft because he has a good story - that's just part of his charm.
 
Boasting a unique upbringing, Aliir became the first player of Sudanese heritage to be selected at a National Draft.

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To understand where he has come from, you need to go back to the very start.
 
Aliir lived in a Kenyan refugee camp from age three after his mother fled war-torn Sudan. His family then made the move to Australia when he was eight-years-old.

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With his family settled in Queensland, Aliir only began playing football in 2009 after giving up on a promising junior basketball career.
 
He represented Queensland in the 2012 NAB AFL Under-18 Championships, where he plied his trade as a raw, but supremely athletic, ruckman.

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However, Aliir moved to Western Australia at the start of this season to reunite with his mother and siblings - who had moved over to Perth the previous year to live near long-lost relations.
 
He proved his football talent by earning a place on the West Australian Under-18 squad, where he developed his niche as a key defender.
 
And he confirmed to the Swans during the 2013 National Championships that his improbable upbringing does not necessarily define his football ability.
 
"It's a great story, but it's really important for us to stress - we didn't take him because he's a good story," Swans list manager Kinnear Beatson told AFL.com.au.
 
"We took him because we think he's got the potential to turn in to a key defender for us and we need that dramatically on our list."
 
Even though he is still prone to the odd mistake on the field, his positive attitude and work ethic endears him to teammates.
 
"Aliir Aliir would be someone that would always want to improve himself in all sorts of areas. If he knows he's deficient in one area, he'll work hard to improve it," says Chris Johnson, Aliir's coach in the Under-16 World XVII team.
 
"If it takes him all night, it takes him all night. He just keeps working at it and chipping away."
 
It is clear that Aliir still has a lot of work to do. But Beatson is confident that, with time and development, Aliir will prove that he's more than just a feel-good story.
 
"I think when you're looking for players you're looking at their attributes and their scope to improve and whether they've got the character and the work ethic to do that," he said.
 
"And we think Aliir has got those things."
 
Twitter: @AFL_BenGuthrie