Chris Johnson certainly experienced the highs and lows of football as a player. Drafted by the Fitzroy Lions in 1993, he went on to play for the club until their demise in 1996 – experiencing some of the leanest times of any VFL/AFL club. His move to the Brisbane Bears at the end of the 1996 season coincided with the rise of a new entity – the Brisbane Lions.
He went on to become a celebrated and decorated legend of the club, playing in three premierships, being an All-Australian selection as well as a member of the Indigenous Team Of The Century. He briefly co-captained the Brisbane Lions and in 2005 was co-captain with Andrew McLeod in the Australian International Rules team.
With a resume as hard-earned and impressive as that it seems only natural that his experience and philosophies be passed on to new generations of indigenous and multicultural players. At the 2017 National AFL Male Kickstart & All Nations Championships in Blacktown, that is exactly what he is doing.
Throughout November the AFL celebrated cultural diversity with a series of films focusing on the journey's of players from multicultural backgrounds. The following clip looks at the journey of Reuben William from the Brisbane Lions - a fascinating insight into how a kid born in Sudan has challenged himself to succeed at the highest level of Australian Rules football.
Travis King from the www.afl.com.au website reports in the wake of the AFL’s Rookie Draft yesterday that Port Adelaide has, as expected, selected the first Ugandan player in the AFL. The league already had a number of players of Sudanese and Kenyan heritage, but Emmanuel Irra proudly becomes the first Ugandan.
EMMANUEL Irra has become the first Ugandan player to earn a spot on an AFL list after joining Port Adelaide as a Category B rookie.
The powerful and versatile midfielder was one of seven players given a chance as Category B rookies as clubs finalised their lists on Monday.
The following story by Ben Guthrie at the www.afl.com.au website looks at the recognition paid by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull towards Sydney Swans defender, and Sudanese talent, Aliir Aliir. The article highlights Aliir’s almost automatic multicultural value as a community leader, made even more wide ranging given his example being used at a UN General Assembly leader’s summit on refugees. It is an inspirational story.
PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull has spoken of the remarkable story of Sydney Swans defender Aliir Aliir at a United Nations conference in New York.
The next player of African descent will hit the turf this weekend in the final home and away round for 2016 when Richmond’s Mabior Chol debuts. A product of the Brisbane Lions Academy originally, Chol was snared by the Tigers with pick 30 in last year’s Rookie Draft. Along with Reuben William (Brisbane) and Gach Nyuon (Essendon), Chol was the third rookie from Sudan to be selected in that same draft.
They joined Majak Daw (North Melbourne) and Aliir Aliir (Sydney) as players from Sudan to be on AFL team lists. With Chol’s selection, only Essendon’s Gach Nyuon is yet to make his senior debut.
It lasted just 15 or so minutes, but while it was happening an entire future of footy flashed before my eyes. When today’s AFL match between the Sydney Swans and North Melbourne started on a cold and showery Blundstone Arena in Hobart, Tasmania, two Sudanese players lined up on each other in key positional posts in an AFL match.
When the siren sounded to get the match started, North’s Majak Daw, armed with more muscles than are probably necessary, lined up at Full Forward. Beside him in the goal square was Sydney’s Aliir Aliir, the Full Back responsible for keeping club veteran Ted Richards out of the team. Well, that’s probably unfair as injury and other players have also had a hand in that…but let’s not ruin a good story!
Majak Daw may have kicked open the door for future Sudanese players, and others from a variety of African countries, but this year has seen first Aliir Aliir debut for the Sydney Swans and now this weekend, the AFL’s showcase 2016 Toyota AFL Multicultural Round, Brisbane Lions rookie, Reuben William, will debut.
William was one of three Sudanese born players to be rookie listed at last year’s draft along with Gach Nyuon (Essendon) and Mabior Chol (Richmond). But William is the first of the three to be upgraded from the rookie list and be selected for his first senior match.
Majak Daw has a firm place in AFL history as the first Sudanese player to reach the highest level of the AFL. What might have been seen as a novelty at the beginning has now changed with Daw proving last weekend that he has much more to offer. He was retained as a rookie by North Melbourne last year and played his first senior game against Essendon on Saturday.
His return of 14 possessions, 5 tackles, 2 goals and 4 hitouts showed off his array of skills, despite a much publicised horror shot on goal, kissing on the run from only 15 metres out. But the outing proved that Majak can still play at the highest level.
Pick 44 in the 2013 AFL Draft was Sydney’s. They had plenty of other players to choose from that later made other team’s lists. Some of the names that went after 44 included Ben Brown (North Melbourne - 47), Orazio Fantasia (Essendon – 55), James Sicily (Hawthorn – 56), Tom Langdon (Collingwood – 65), Sam Lloyd (Richmond – 66) and a few other decent picks.
But the Sydney Swans had already seen something they liked better. Their scouts had been up in Queensland watching the skills and potential of Aliir Aliir, the Sudanese boy who had been firing at junior levels for years. When he went to Western Australia in 2013 to improve his drafting chances (after being overlooked in the 2012 draft), Sydney’s eyes followed. The Swans, not afraid to take a chance, picked a fruit from the draft tree that might take a while to ripen, but when it did it would likely be a delight.