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Aliir still a chance for the big dance


Sydney defender Aliir Aliir still has some chance of playing in next Saturday’s AFL grand final against the Western Bulldogs, after scans revealed he suffered a minor medial ligament knee strain against Geelong on Friday.

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None of the Sydney players under an injury cloud have yet been ruled out of the season decider.

Precautionary scans cleared midfielders Luke Parker and Josh Kennedy after they suffered knee knocks.

Co-captain Jarrad McVeigh (calf) and Rising Star winner Callum Mills (hamstring), neither of whom played last week, will be tested at training this week.

Aliir, whose remarkable story as a Sudanese refugee was highlighted by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to the United Nations last week, was hurt in the first quarter of last Friday’s preliminary final against Geelong.

He was unable to continue playing after he landed awkwardly following a marking contest.

Aliir, who’s played in 13 games in his first season, including Sydney’s last 11, had a scan on Saturday.

“The scans have revealed Aliir has suffered a low-grade medial strain,” Swans head of football Tom Harley said.

“We will continue to monitor Aliir and assess him as the week progresses. He remains a chance to play.”

Should 22-year-old Aliir not be passed fit, it could leave the door ajar for 33-year-old veteran Ted Richards to play one last game.

Richards, who will retire at the end of the season, hasn’t played a senior game since round 17.

While he would be a positional like-for-like replacement for Aliir, the Bulldogs don’t have a large array of tall forwards and the Swans could potentially get away with not picking another tall back.

Coach John Longmire would ideally like to squeeze Mills and McVeigh back into his top 22, meaning two players would have to drop out.

If Aliir, Mills and McVeigh are passed fit, then Jeremy Laidler, Harrison Marsh and Zak Jones are among the defenders who might be sacrificed.

Laidler played the last two games in place of Mills, first-season back Marsh has appeared in the last four matches and Jones made an impressive return to senior duties against Geelong.

Most other players further forward look well set unless the Swans match committee opts for a little more experience in picking someone like Harry Cunningham instead of a younger forward like Xavier Richards or South Australian George Hewett.

One player confident in his place in the side is 25-year-old speedster Gary Rohan,  a key contributor in the 37-point preliminary final win over the Cats just six days after he was stretchered from the SCG with a knee injury to the same leg he badly broke in 2012.

He says he gained a lot of confidence after he trained mid-week – confidence now reinforced by a standout performance against Geelong.

“I didn’t feel it all during the game, which was really positive,” Rohan said.

“When I went down I did fear the worst. Obviously there’s a bit of history with that leg, so I got a bit of a shock. But I’ve got rods and screws in there that hold it all together.

“I’m really confident in it.”

So swift was his recovery, his teammates quickly saw the lighter side.

“The boys put a stretcher in my locker,” he said.

“It was all a bit of fun.”


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