PORT Adelaide had just lost to Collingwood by six points on Saturday afternoon, but star defender Aliir Aliir couldn't help but smile half an hour after the final siren. He wasn't smiling about the result, he was beaming about what the weekend meant for the South Sudanese community.

Round 20 was a landmark weekend for the bigger picture of the game.   

Eight months after Mac Andrew and Leek Aleer became the first players with South Sudanese heritage to be selected in the first round of the NAB AFL Draft, the pair made their debuts.

Gold Coast's Mac Andrew celebrates with teammates after the round 20 win over West Coast at Metricon Stadium on July 31, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

Gold Coast made history when it used pick No.5 on Andrew, a Dandenong Stingrays key position prospect, before Greater Western Sydney selected Aleer from Central Districts 10 picks later.

Andrew, who was born in a refugee camp in Egypt before moving to Australia, made his first AFL appearance against West Coast at Metricon Stadium on Sunday, alongside teammate Mabior Chol, who booted five goals to move to No.8 in the Coleman Medal race.

Kenyan-born Aleer faced the Swans in the Sydney Derby at the SCG on Saturday, after his family flew to Sydney from Adelaide to surprise him during an emotional debut announcement at Giants HQ last Thursday.

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Majak Daw was the first South Sudanese player to be drafted when North Melbourne selected him in the Rookie Draft at the end of 2009. He was the first to debut in 2013, and for a long time, he was the only South Sudanese player in the game.

But that's changed now.

On the weekend just gone, Changkuoth Jiath played for Hawthorn, Buku Khamis for the Western Bulldogs, Michael Frederick for Fremantle and Aliir for the Power.

Hawthorn's Changkuoth Jiath in action during round 20 against St Kilda at Marvel Stadium on July 30, 2022. Picture: AFL Photos

After making an inspirational debut earlier in the season, Bigoa Nyuon played for Richmond's VFL side on Sunday, while Martin Frederick - Michael's twin - has now played 14 games for Port Adelaide and Fremantle plucked Sebit Kuek out of East Perth in this year's Mid-Season Rookie Draft.

Almost all of them have remarkable stories of growing up in refugee camps after fleeing the Civil War in Sudan, spending years waiting to be accepted into Australia and then having to settle into a completely foreign city, thousands of kilometres from home.

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Aliir became the first player with South Sudanese heritage to be selected in the All-Australian team last year and knows the weekend was significant for his community.

"It is so awesome. I feel like a proud big brother," Aliir told AFL.com.au after Port Adelaide lost to Collingwood at the MCG on Saturday.

"I know Mac and Leek pretty well. We've got a WhatsApp and Snapchat group that we all stay in contact with.

"To see them debut is wonderful for the community. It just shows that there is a lot of Africans that are coming in and getting involved in the game. Hopefully we can inspire even more Africans to want to play football."

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There was a time, not that long ago, that the South Sudanese community was wrongly portrayed in the media for all the wrong reasons. But now, they are quickly leaving their mark on the game for all the right reasons.

"I still remember a few years back when the African gangs stuff was happening and everyone was saying we were bad. I've always said there is a lot of us who are doing good," Aliir said.

"It's great to see more being drafted, great to see the first top-10 pick, two in the first-round. Great to see Mac and Leek debut. I always had Majak as the one to set the example for me. It's been great to see these young kids coming through now."

Aliir Aliir takes a mark during the round seven match between St Kilda and Port Adelaide at Cazalys Stadium on April 30, 2022. Picture: Getty Images

The AFL is not the only competition benefiting from South Sudanese footballers right now. State leagues around the country are enjoying their impact, including the Werribee Tigers, who have five South Sudanese players on their list, including former Brisbane Lion Reuben William, while local leagues are also experiencing a spike in South Sudanese recruits.

After being born in a Kenyan refugee camp before moving to Australia at the age of eight to settle in Brisbane, Aliir has now played 104 games for Sydney and Port Adelaide after becoming the first player with his heritage to be selected in the National Draft in 2013, a handful of years after he played his first game.

Port Adelaide's Aliir Aliir poses ahead of the 2021 AFL Finals Series, near Torrens Island on August 25, 2021. Picture: Getty Images

The 27-year-old has become a star of the competition at Alberton, electrifying fans with his intercepting and game-breaking ability, confident more prospects are about to enter the AFL and the years to come.

"100 per cent there are more coming. There are going to be multiple All-Australians, a couple of Brownlows in there," he said.

"There is a lot of younger kids coming through. Some have missed out on the draft and are playing VFL, still trying to get to the top league. I feel like a big brother. I'm 27 now and these guys are coming through who are 19, 20, 21. I feel kind of older, but that’s a good thing."