HIS FAMILY flew in for one of the more emotional debut announcements in recent times, with first-round draft pick Leek Aleer set to make his debut for Greater Western Sydney in the Sydney Derby on Saturday.
The 20-year-old, who was born in Kenya to a family of South Sudanese refugees, arrived in Adelaide at the age of six. After being taken at pick No.15 in last year's draft, he will finally wear the orange and charcoal at AFL level for the first time.
Aleer’s mother Tabitha and five younger sisters were secretly flown into Sydney last night by the Giants and Mark McVeigh called them into a team meeting today to surprise the key defender and present him with his guernsey.
"It was pretty special. I had no idea it was happening. My mum catches up with me every night on the phone except last night she didn't call which was a bit of a surprise. I didn't put two and two together though," he said.
"Spike (McVeigh) said he had someone coming in to have a chat with us and I just thought he had a motivational speaker but when my little sisters walked in, I was a bit shocked.
"The club did that really beautifully and I got emotional seeing my younger siblings and my mum with the jumper. It was unreal."
The 196cm backman from Central Districts has hailed All-Australian Aliir Aliir and the Frederick twin brothers – Michael at Fremantle and Martin at Port - as inspirations to him as players from a similar South Sudanese background.
But it's inaugural Giant Phil Davis who has taken him under his wing since moving to Sydney.
"He’s been monumental, he's an amazing character, he's got a lot of experience. He's been a mentor who's been incredible for me.
Aleer may well be Davis' long-term replacement down back at GWS as he outlined how happy he was in Sydney despite hailing from South Australia.
"The boys here are so close because they're all from different places. We tend to rely on each other a bit more than boys at other clubs. It's an aspect I really appreciate. Sydney's a beautiful place and I've been really happy coming here.”
The first assignment for Aleer is the 24th Sydney Derby, where the Giants will try to snap a three-game losing streak and end the three-game winning run of their cross-town rivals.
And for the debutant down back, it will mean trying to quell the influence of the legendary Lance Franklin.
"The thought's gone through my head. If there's a moment when I'm on Buddy then I’ll strap my boots up and go hard at it," he said.
"I'm ecstatic, nervous a bit but this is something I've dreamt about for a long time. I'm just very grateful to be given this opportunity and I can't wait to run out there with the boys and give it a crack."