One of the most beloved Swans of the modern era, Aliir Aliir was traded to Port Adelaide on the penultimate day of the 2020 Trade Period for a second round selection.
Contracted through until the conclusion of 2021, Aliir was one of Sydney’s best attacking weapons from the defensive half and was equally as capable of shutting down an opponent.
Which begs the question, why would Sydney trade a 26-year-old defender seemingly entering his prime?
Let’s take a look at the factors that lead to his departure from the Swans.
After finishing on top of the ladder, Port Adelaide lost the preliminary final in heartbreaking circumstances to the eventual premier Richmond. The club’s remarkable rise from outside the eight to premiership contenders was one of 2020’s most intriguing storylines.
The Power were strong across the board but the one deficiency the club had was locking down dominant forwards.
Enter Aliir Aliir.
Aliir played almost every game in 2020 for the Swans, missing three games mid-season. This season highlighted the versatility of the 26-year-old, with the Kenyan-born star playing roles in the ruck, up forward and in his preferred position of defence.
Port Adelaide first signalled its intent early in the trade period to trade for a defender and floated the idea of luring Aliir to slot into their backline and potentially fill the shoes of the now retired Justin Westhoff.
Sydney was reluctant to entertain a potential trade at the beginning of the period, but eventually yielded by the penultimate day.
The Swans were able to secure a future second round pick, but what are the Power getting in return?
Who is Aliir?
Aliir was a Sudanese refugee born in Kenya in 1994.
He moved to Australia aged eight and began playing football at 14.
He made his NEAFL debut in 2012, and was drafted in the 2013 National Draft at pick 44.
After two years honing his craft in the reserves, he made his long-awaited debut in round 6, 2016.
He cemented his place in the Swans side by round 16, becoming a rock in defense taking over ten marks four times before a knee injury kept him out of the Swans eventual grand final loss to the Bulldogs.
From there his form was inconsistent and injuries curtained his development in 2017, where he only played three games.
However, he returned to his best in 2018, where he once again proved to be a dependable defender for the Swans.
He finally played every game in a season in 2019, and played all but three games in 2020.
Over his career Aliir has averaged 2.4 intercept marks per game, ranked elite for a defender.
Aliir’s impact on the Swans extended beyond the football field, with the enigmatic figure a fan favourite in the red and the white.
Why Swans fans will miss Aliir
A cult hero and a fan favourite, Aliir’s departure came as a shock to many Sydney fans who trusted that the club were not going to trade the contracted player.
The mood suddenly shifted on the second last day of the trade period, and Aliir was promptly moved out, leaving Swans fans dumbfounded and saddened.
Swans football boss Charlie Gardner had this to say over the move.
“Whilst we would have loved to see Aliir stay, he indicated to us a desire to be traded to Port Adelaide, and to take up the opportunity of a long term deal on offer,” Gardiner said.
“We worked with Port Adelaide to arrive at a trade which sees us strengthen our draft assets and provides added flexibility to address our list needs during the trade period as well as support our position coming into the National Draft.”
So, what does this mean for the Swans?
Before they could even blink, Aliir is on his way to Port Adelaide on a four-year deal.
Swans fans are absolutely puzzled over the move, and analysts are equally perplexed.
After all, elite defenders don’t grow on trees.
Fortunately, pick three in this year’s draft may secure an elite defensive talent that may just step straight into the side and replace Aliir.
This year’s draft has key position prospect Denver Grainger-Barass from the Swan Districts, who is expected to be available at the Swans’ selection.
While there’s no doubting his talent, he will have an enormous job ahead of him filling the personality void left by Aliir’s departure.
While Aliir can be replaced on field his fan favouritism is borderline irreplaceable off it. This one may take a while for Sydney fans to process.